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East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan - A History of one of the world's oldest derbies.

The Milan Derby, the Manchester Derby, El Classico, Merseyside Derby- these are some of the most awaited derbies for football fans all around the world during a regular football season. In India, these famous derbies are equally awaited, but an Indian football fan here looks for only one match when the local league fixtures are announced - East Bengal versus Mohun Bagan or the Kolkata Derby or just 'The Derby'.

This match is easily India's biggest derby and one of the most iconic in the world. Termed the 'Boro' meaning Big in Bengali, attendances for this match border around the 100,000 inside the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. The passion and hostility exhibited by both sets of fans are on par with the other famous derbies of the world. This has prompted FIFA to include this fixture in its 'List Of Classic Rivalries'.

Each derby has a history behind it and so does the Kolkata derby. Mohun Bagan are one of Asia's oldest clubs. Inaugurated in 1889, it drew a host of players from other regions as it was based at Kolkata (then Calcutta), the capital of British India till 1911. In the mid 1920's, a Kolkata club called Jora Bagan took to the field against Mohun Bagan without their star player Sailesh Bose. This move angered the club vice-president Suresh Chandra Chaudhuri who decided that he would form his own club. Hence East Bengal was formed. Chaudhuri and other co-founders of East Bengal hailed from the eastern region of Bengal which is modern-day Bangladesh, while Mohun Bagan's supporters were from the western side of the state of Bengal.

The fans of Mohun Bagan are known as the 'Ghotis' while supporters of East Bengal are called as 'Bangals'. The Calcutta “bhadraloks” (gentlemen) who ran Mohun Bagan often discriminated against athletes from the eastern parts of Bengal (now Bangladesh), whose culinary tastes, accents and modes of dressing were ridiculed by the more “civilised” city elite.

Every Kolkata Derby attracts a near 100,000 capacity crowd
There are many customs followed before and after the game, depending upon the result. Mohun Bagan fanatics celebrate the derby win with prawn while the 'Bangals' prefer ‘Hilsa’ fish. In certain parts of Kolkata, the favourite fish chosen by the winning team's supporters goes up for sale in the morning at highly affordable prices!

The Kolkata Derby is the only derby match which has made it to FIFA's list of classic rivalries from a nation which is ranked above 100 in the FIFA World Rankings.

The first encounter between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan was in 1925 in the Calcutta Football League in which East Bengal came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to N. Chakravarty's solitary goal. Since then both clubs have met 301 times with East Bengal registering 112 wins over Bagan's 85. The clubs have shared the spoils on 104 occasions and have scored a combined tally of 500 goals.

Both clubs had their share of domination over the other in different periods. The 1960's was all Mohun Bagan as they waltzed their way to a host of trophies including a 3-1 win over East Bengal in the final of the IFA Shield. East Bengal's turn to dictate terms amongst the two teams came during the 1970's.

Two of these derby matches would be permanently imprinted in the minds of every East Bengal and Mohun Bagan fan. The first of this was an IFA Shield match in 1975 where the Red and Golds thumped the Mariners 5-0 which was one of the club's biggest wins in the history of the Kolkata derby. This was another win that ensured that East Bengal never lost a derby game between 1969 and 1975. Such was the fear of fan repurcussions that a host of Bagan players spent the night after the match in a boat on the Ganges river.

'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.'- Bill Shankly

The second was the semi-final of the Federation Cup in 1997 when 131,000 fans witnessed East Bengal demolish the Mariners 4-1 thanks to a Bhaichung Bhutia hat-trick. This feat was not bettered till 2009 when Nigerian striker Edeh Chidi, now playing for East Bengal, scored four goals in a historic 5-3 victory for Mohun Bagan.

STAT: Bhaichung Bhutia holds the record for most number of goals (19) scored in the Kolkata Derby.

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