Mohun Bagan: Indian Sports Heroes In 1905 British India


Mohun Bagan is one of the oldest football clubs of Asia and considered the most successful in India since its foundation in 1889 in Kolkata. It came into existence in British India where football was a leisure past time and a sport usually restricted to the British.

Mohun Bagan has a rich history, full of victories, defeats and heroic stances, but one of the most charming is the story of Gladstone Cup 1905, where Mohun Bagan played against Dalhousie.

Mohun Bagan Bask In glory

Mohun  Bagan  had its first victory back in 1904 Coochbehar tournament , which contributed in uplifting the confidence and moral of the players of Mohun Bagan. Continuing their success , the team made its way to the finals of Gladstone Cup in 1905, which was one of the tournaments that allowed participation of Indian clubs.

Zeal for victory and love for football were the two driving forces for the Mohun Bagan team who were making their mark in Indian football, in spite of being devoid of equal stature, basic training and minimal requisites like football shoes. These 11 Indian sportsmen practiced day and night for the big final of Gladstone Cup at Chinsurah, a small town near Kolkata.

Their opponents, Dalhousie were a champion team, with a recent triumph in the IFA Shield against CFC and was considered the best team in Indian football in the summer of 1905.

Mohun Bagan

Mohun Bagan team after winning 1911 IFA shield

Dalhousie Taken Apart in Gladstone Cup Final

On the day of final match of Gladstone Cup the teams of Mohun Bagan and Dalhousie boarded the same train for Chinsura and players of Mohun Bagan were surprised to see only seven players of Dalhousie boarding the train. A gentle question out of curiosity, regarding the whereabouts of Dalhousie’s remaining four players, by the Mohun Bagan team members was answered with typical snobbery. The Dalhousie team proudly claimed that the Mouhun Bagan team could easily be defeated even by seven British players from the Dalhousie team.

The rest of the Dalhousie players did join their team later but the comments by the British team were added motivation for the Mohun Bagan players and fuelled their desire for victory. What was being considered an easy match for Dalhousie suddenly became a difficult one.

The Mohun Bagan team responded to the provocation and constant racist slurs by the British players of Dalhousie in the best way possible – by a string of goals.

The final of the Gladstone cup in 1905 was won by the 11 barefoot Mohun Bagan players by a score of 6-1 against the British team of Dalhousie. The shoe was truly on the other foot !

The Most Successful Club In Indian Football

Mohun Bagan went on to become the most successful football team of British India and after the heroic victory of 1911 IFA Shield it was branded as the national team of India and players from that team are revered to this day and considered national heroes.

The victory of 1905 Gladstone Cup is significant as it heralded the start of a great club, Mohun Bagan. The  victory came at a time when Bengal was facing religious turbulence generated by the British decision of partitioning Bengal and yet the spirit of football contributed in uniting them in those difficult times.

Sports Rediscovered salutes the eleven barefoot men of Mohun Bagan who proved beyond doubt that the best answers are reserved for the playing field !

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