All roads in the I-League will lead to the Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri this weekend as the 316th derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan takes place at a pivotal time in the ongoing season.
The first recorded derby took place between these sides on May 28, 1925 in a Calcutta Football League match, about five years into East Bengal's formation. Despite Mohun Bagan being the more established club, having been set up in 1889, East Bengal would win the first meeting 1-0, with the winner scored by Nepal Chakravarty. In the years that have followed, East Bengal have edged the head-to-head 120-87, with 108 matches ending in draws.
Here's a look back at five of the most iconic derbies in the storied rivalry between these crosstown rivals.
November 27, 1960, Rovers Cup semi-final
East Bengal 2-1 Mohun Bagan
Derby matches between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan have always galvanised supporters, whether they have been played in Kolkata or elsewhere. The Rovers Cup semi-final of 1960 was no exception, and the occasion was made bigger as the rivals were facing off in Mumbai for the first time, and that too just a few days after having shared the Durand Cup title in Delhi.
There was a smattering of glamour at the Cooperage, with singer Hemanta Kumar and actor Biswajit rooting for Mohun Bagan and music director Sachin Dev Burman, his son Rahul and actor Ashok Kumar all East Bengal supporters.
Legend has it that singer and Bagan supporter Manna Dey ended up hugging Burman senior, who he was seated next to, when Mohun Bagan scored first. The latter didn't say a word and asked the young Dey to leave his side as soon as the first half ended. East Bengal would go on to win 2-1, powered by goals by Arun Ghosh and Lakshminarayan.
September 10, 1967, Calcutta Football League
Mohun Bagan 1-0 East Bengal
Mohun Bagan beat East Bengal 1-0 in a Calcutta Football League match played at the Eden Gardens, a result that meant Mohammedan Sporting went on to win the league for only the third time since independence, and collect their first title in 10 years.
The complete domination of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the CFL can be gauged by the fact that since that year, the title has gone to any other club only once, when Mohammedan Sporting won their last title in 1981. There was a sweet footnote for Chuni Goswami, who scored the winner for Bagan on the day, as he reached home to find four packets of biryani sent to him by Mohammedan Sporting club as a gift.
September 30, 1975, IFA Shield final
East Bengal 5-0 Mohun Bagan
The East Bengal - Mohun Bagan rivalry was dominated by East Bengal for a long period in the 70s, which included a spell of 1559 days when they were undefeated against their arch rivals. That spell was broken by Mohun Bagan in a Durand Cup semi-final in January 1975, but their clash in the IFA Shield final eight months later saw a 5-0 win for East Bengal, a record for biggest margin of victory in the derby that still stands.
Shyam Thapa scored a brace of goals to spearhead the East Bengal win, as a young Bhaskar Ganguly in the Bagan goal found himself at the receiving end of relentless attacks from the opposition. The match was played at the Mohun Bagan ground, and the fans of the home side were irate at the end of the game.
Bagan stars Subrata Bhattacharya and Prasun Banerjee found an escape route and spent the night hiding in a boat on the river Ganges. Incidentally, Banerjee's elder brother and legendary former football PK was the coach of East Bengal for this game.
July 13, 1997, Federation Cup semi-final
East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan
A few years ago, while on a television panel ahead of a Kolkata derby, Nigerian-born former striker Chima Okorie was asked which game in a Mohun Bagan jersey did he think his team played their best in. His response was a bit of a surprise; a 4-1 defeat at the hands of East Bengal in the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final, played in front of about 140,000 fans at the Salt Lake Stadium.
This match featured one of only two hat-tricks ever struck in the 92 years of the derby, with Bhaichung Bhutia leading the line for East Bengal and playing what many describe to be the game of his life. This was also the phase when slick television production and prime-time telecast of Indian football had just taken off, and the broadcast was made available to fans of Indian football across Asia.
An enduring image featured Bhutia celebrating one of his three goals by planting a kiss on a camera lens located at the level of the pitch. The euphoria for East Bengal fans would be short-lived, as Bruno Coutinho scored a Golden Goal five days later to help Salgaocar beat East Bengal to the Federation Cup title.
October 25, 2009, I-League
Mohun Bagan 5-3 East Bengal
The record books were sent flying out of the window in the I-League fixture played at the Salt Lake Stadium between Karim Bencherifa's Mohun Bagan and Subhash Bhomick's East Bengal in October, 2009.
Edeh Chidi of Nigeria became the first player on either side to score four goals in one match, sparking a Bagan fightback after falling behind 1-0 to a Nirmal Chhetri header off a corner early in the first half for East Bengal, the designated home team of the day.
A record-breaking six goals were witnessed in the first half which ended with the teams locked at 3-3, with Manish Mathani scoring one of Bagan's goals to cancel out a brace by Yusif Yakubu. Chidi's second half goals meant the most goals scored in a derby, and Mohun Bagan left the ground happy with a 5-3 win, having exacted a measure of revenge for the five goals conceded in 1975.
At the end of the season, both teams failed to make any significant impact on the points table, with Mohun Bagan finishing fifth to East Bengal's ninth out of 14 teams.
With inputs by Gautam Roy, football historian and media manager of East Bengal football club.