Kolkata Derby Special : Anecdotes From Yesteryear Derbies

Sunday, 12 February 2017|Arijit Mukherjee
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The Kolkata Derby is the El Classico of Indian Football. It is the best footballing match India has to offer. The Kolkata Derby - played between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, has been the highlight of Indian football since time can remember.

This Sunday the two eternal nemesis lock horns in the first I-League derby of 2017. Before that we take a look at some of the anecdotes from yesteryear derbies.

 

Chuni Goswami gets surprise Biriyani treat

Mohun Bagan defeated East Bengal by a solitary goal scored by the legendary Chuni Goswami in the 1967 Calcutta League at Eden Gardens. If East Bengal had drawn the match they would have won the title, but their defeat meant Mohammedan won the title instead. When Chuni returned home he was in for a pleasant surprise; the house was full of biriyani packets!! It was just a token of love from Mohammedan and its legion of supporters!!

 

Arun Ghosh faints at the ground

In the year 1961 East Bengal defeated Mohun Bagan after a gap of nine years. Arun Ghosh played an outstanding match and did the impossible of making sure Chuni Goswami was not effective in that match. Tulsidas Balaram was also brilliant in that match. This was the first win for East Bengal after football boots became mandatory in Indian Football in 1954. Arun Ghosh played the match with extreme fever, after the match he fainted and had to be taken to the hospital.

 

The movie-watcher Samaresh Chowdhury

It was the derby of 1976. Samaresh Chowdhury had the strange superstition of watching a movie during the noon show on the day of the derby or as we Bengalis call it “Boro” match. On the advice of Mohammed Habib, he as usual, went to see the movie Ashok Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and Sadhna starrer “Mere Mehboob” at the Majestic Cinema. He lost track of time as he was so engrossed in the movie and it was already 3:45 and the match was scheduled to start at 4:15 PM.

He had another derby day superstition of having chicken stew and bread from a small eatery called Parbati Cabin in New Market after the movie. So he ran to the cabin had his dosage of stew and bread and then started running towards the ground. In the mean time at the ground, the legendary Dhiren Dey and Sailen Manna had taken it as a foregone conclusion that Samaresh who had come from East Bengal that year is not going to play the “Boro” match!

But the legendary coach PK Banerjee knew about his habit and was least bothered about his absence. Samaresh did reach the ground in the nick of time, got dressed and without even warming up started the match. Mohun Bagan did win the match courtesy of a first-minute goal from Akbar. What a Character!

 

Member of Parliament Prasun Banerjee’s prawn in kerosene

The current Howrah Trinamool MP Prasun Banerjee used to stay at Kankurgachi during the Eighties. At the start of that decade Prasun’s Mohun Bagan lost a “Boro” match and to taunt him some East Bengal supporters had hung Hilsa in front of his residence. Prasun did not get angry; instead, he called some of his friends over, cooked the Hilsas and had a hearty feast.

In the next derby Mohun Bagan won, now Prasun hung some prawns in front of his home along with his friends, The East Bengal neighbours of his took the prawns with them to do the same with Prasun but they could not eat the prawns!! You know why? Prasun Banerjee and his friends had soaked all the prawns in kerosene so that no one can eat it.
 

From having lunch at Peiping to playing the Derby

1976 IFA Shield final. As he was not in the team East Bengal’s Chinmoy Chatterjee was having a wonderful lunch at the Chinese eatery, Peiping in Park Street and then lazed his way to the ground to watch the match. When he reached the ground to his utter shock he saw that Ashok Lal Banerjee was sick and he had to get dressed to play the match.

 

Dipendu loves his broken finger

It’s been 20 years but still he cannot bend his right thumb. It’s painful but strangely if you ask the Trinamool MLA Dipendu Biswas he says the thumb reminds him more of joy and not pain. Why?

It was the year 1997, The famed “Diamond” Mohun Bagan coached by the legendary Amal Dutta had been trounced 4-1 by arch-rivals East Bengal in the Federation Cup semi-final some weeks back and they faced each other for another derby in the Kolkata League, it was important to win the match to restore the bruised pride and Mohun Bagan did win it through a Dipendu Biswas goal.

After scoring all the team-mates including the heavily built Chima jumped on him in sheer joy and he broke his thumb. The broken thumb still hurts but he remembers it with pride on his face and not pain.

 

Double lock at Eden

It was the year 1979. Prasanta Banerjee was playing his first derby. At that time there was a notion that a particular dressing room was lucky and both teams used various means to occupy that dressing room as whoever took it use to win the match. Prasanta Banerjee was playing for East Bengal. Just before the match keeping this superstition in mind PK Banerjee the Mohun Bagan coach put a lock on that particular dressing room door right before the match started in the hope that when the team members come in he will open it and let them in.

Sensing this, East Bengal official Jeevan Chakraborty put another lock on top of it to make sure Mohun Bagan are not able to enter. In the end, neither team could use that dressing room. Though Mohun Bagan on the field put up a stellar performance and won the match handsomely.

 

Samaresh Chowdhury’s Taxi driver

In the year 1977 Samaresh Chowdhury as usual was late coming to the ground as he was completing his ritual of watching a movie on “Boro” match day. He hailed a cab and got the taxi driver to ply him to the ground in lieu of bonus pay, when the driver, who was a East Bengal fan, realised who was in his cab he refused to take money instead requested Samaresh to let him watch the match.

Samaresh instructed Shankar Mali to take care of him and rushed into the dressing room where a peeved Amol Dutta was waiting for him as he was not aware of Samaresh Chowdhury’s ritual. East Bengal won the match 2-0. He scored a goal and was the Red and Gold's Hero.

Samaresh usually used to be the last one to leave the stadium at the end of the match and used to catch a bus from Babughat for Nagerbazar where he stayed. But when he was leaving he saw the taxi driver waiting for him outside who drove him home without even charging.

 

Biswajit turns hero from zero

Biswajit Bhattacharya played for East Bengal in the 1983 and 1984 season. In 84 East Bengal lost the derby at Eden through a Babu Mani goal but the target of abuse and brickbats was Biswajit. His home was pelted with stones as well as he was filthily abused on the road and was chastened at every given instance by the club supporters. The situation was so grim that Biswajit Bhattacharya and Karthik Seth used to come through a small gate near Fort William into the East Bengal ground for practice.

On one such match-day against Rajasthan club though he scored two goals he was chased by supporters and he fell down and did cut himself. But after scoring in the return derby he overnight turned hero and returned to the club tents climbing on the same fans shoulders. That was the madness for the derby in this part of the country.

 

Derby of Superstitions

Which team is going to step onto the field first was the bone of contention and argument during the 1978 derby match. Neither team was ready to set foot on the ground first, and because of that the match got delayed by 45 minutes. In 1977 Mohun Bagan had stepped onto the ground first and had lost the match, so they were not ready to bite the cherry and East Bengal also had the same obstinate. At last Mohun Bagan skipper, Prasun Banerjee and East Bengal skipper Surojit Sengupta stepped onto the field together. The match was won by Mohun Bagan courtesy of a Shyam Thapa back volley.

Originally published in Bengali by Ei Samay