Kolkata, Aug 1 : The iconic football club East Bengal will officially kick off its
Centenary celebrations on its foundation day on Thursday with a glittering ceremony at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here.
To mark this day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wished all present and former players, officials and supporters of East Bengal club.
“Today is the centenary of East Bengal FC. The club has had a glorious association with football, contributing to the sport’s promotion. My best wishes to all present and former players, officials and supporters of @eastbengalfc.” Ms Banerjee posted on her social networking page.
As part of its centenary celebrations getting underway from Thursday, the club will be awarding India’s first cricket World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev its highest honour, ''Bharat Gaurav''. Kapil is no stranger to football as he had donned the club’s colours in an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan in 1992.
Stalwarts like Manoranjan Bhattacharya and Bhaskar Ganguly will be honoured with lifetime achievement awards. There will also be special awards for two other iconic names, Bhaichung Bhutia and P.K.Banerjee, who contributed to the club’s fame as a player and coach respectively. Meanwhile, renowned filmmaker Goutam Ghose will soon start working on a documentary on East Bengal Football Club as a part of the club’s historic centenary celebrations.
The documentary will highlight all the significant events in East Bengal’s 100-year old history which includes the huge achievements of the legendary Pancha Pandavas (Appa Rao, Ahmed Khan, P Venkatesh, PB Saleh, and Dhanraj) and the historic Asean Cup win in 2003. East Bengal Football Club was formed on August 1, 1920 as a Sports and Cultural association of people who primarily hailed from the eastern provinces of Bengal before partition.
The Club became an ardent epicenter for millions of people who were constantly questioned of their identity. This spirit of club laid foundation of its glorious legacy, where the support extended by the club was much akin to the bonding of an extended family. From then, every milestone of East Bengal Club became the symbol of celebration of its supporters. ‘The Hand holding Flame Torch’ became the club’s symbol and identity.
East Bengal Club takes immense pride in the supporter base of approximately 3 Crores across the nation and overseas, which is an aggregate number only second to the Manchester United. The club's maiden League triumph was achieved in 1942. The club came into limelight and ultimately got the first flavor of the Calcutta I.F.A. Shield by winning in the year 1943. In 1945 - Club achieved the Double win, both in Calcutta League and I.F.A. Shield and also recorded their highest margin of victory when they thrashed B.B.C.I. Railway 11-0 in a Rovers Cup tie. Pagsley the Club's Anglo Burmese Centre Forward scored eight goals in the same tie setting up a record for maximum number of goals scored by an individual player in a match.
Club's Nayar's record of scoring 36 goals in the 1946 I.F.A. League is still unbroken. In 1948 - East Bengal FC defeated the Chinese Olympic XI-2-0 (Scorer - Appa Rao and Saleh) and gained the rich heritage of performing well against foreign club sides. J.C. Guha (1948-69) made a significant contribution during this period in making the club a premier Football Club not only in India but also abroad.
East Bengal FC won Rover's Cup in 1949. Also, a winning streak of historic triumph of the I.F.A. Shield three years in a row (1949-51) as the first Indian team, earned them the unique distinction of being adjudged the best football club by the English F.A. annual almanac of 1951-52. In 1950 the club won D.C.M. The trophy was presented by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the presence of his daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi.
In 1951 East Bengal Won Durand Cup. The club performed well against the foreign sides as they defeated F.C. Gotheburg (Sweden) 1-0 (Scorer -Saleh). The club also pioneered in raising funds for Prime Minister's Relief Fund by playing a number of exhibition ties. East Bengal Football Club is the only club in India who has been invited by Romania Youth Festival Committee to participate in their football tournament at Bucharest in the year 1953. The club was recommended the best football club of India by the then President of India, Late Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Masood Fakri, who played for East Bengal Football Club in the years 1952 - 1954 became the first Asian footballer to play professional football in England from 1955. (UNI)