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29th July 1911 : A Day when British were humbled by Barefooted Footballers

29th July 1911 is one of the most important date in India's Sporting History as it was on this day that a team of barefooted footballers defeated a British Team to lift its maiden IFA Shield.

The Year was 1911 and fight for independence was catching pace throughout the country and Bengal was no different. Strikes and Bandhs had become daily phenomenon and British forces were finding it difficult to situation. And the youth of Calcutta were not making things easier for the authorities.

Football, which was spreading its influence among the youth of Calcutta, gave another platform to them to show the British that they were no lesser than them. IFA Shield, India's Premier Football Tournament at that time, organised by Indian Football Association, was one such platform. First Played in 1893, and until 1911 all the editions were won by British Teams. But things were about to be changed.

Mohun Bagan AC, a football club established in 1889 by the elites of Bengal to provide the Bengali Youth a platform to showcase their talents, was emerging as a footballing power house. The team had already made history when they won the Coochbehar Cup, Gladstone Cup and Trades Cup in the same year in 1907 and repeated the same feat in 1908.

Mohun Bagan entered the final of 1911 IFA Shield by defeating stronger British sides like Rangers, St. Xaviers and Middlesex. These wins cemented the team's faith in themselves. Their final match was against East Yorkshire Regiment, a team comprising of British Army Officers and Soldiers. Mohun Bagan led by Shibdas Bhaduri had 10 players out of 11 who were playing in folded dhotis and were barefooted with just one of them, Sudhir Chaterjee wearing boots against a team that entered the field with complete kits. The match was played at Calcutta FC ground and was attended by 80,000 Football Fans. The streets of Kolkata had a deserted look as every one was trying to reach the ground for this historic match.

East Yorkshire Regiment  scored the first goal of the match in the first half silencing the local crowd supporting Mohun Bagan. But Green & Maroon Captain Shibdas Bhaduri equalised soon in the second half and instilled hopes in his team mates that this match can be won. Abhilash Ghosh, playing as a striker for Mohun Bagan scored the winner and etched his and his team's name in history. Mohun Bagan won this match 2-1 and became the first Indian Team to lift the prestigious IFA Shield. 

This victory against a British Team went a long way in instilling a sense of belief and confidence in Indians that they were equal to the British and also fueled a new wave of revolution among the youth of Calcutta.

29th July is celebrated as Mohun Bagan Day by the fans of the Green & Maroon as a mark of respect for the team of 1911 who immortalized themselves in the hearts of football lovers of not only Calcutta but whole of India and the World.

Arun Roy, famous Bengali Film director, recreated the magic of 1911 on Silver Screen, in his award winning film, EGARO, released on 21st January 2011.

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