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FOOTBALL IN BENGAL

The year 1877 goes down in the history as the start of  Calcutta ’s or rather India ’s tryst with football. Nagendra Prasad Sarbadhikary is acknowledged as the 'father of Indian soccer' for his pioneering role in introducing soccer as a teenager in the year 1877 at Hare School in North Calcutta . It is he who mobilized his classmates and started playing the game at the Hare School compound. Attracted by the enthusiasm of the boys in the school, the European teachers of the school & adjacent colleges encouraged Nagendra Prasad and his companions to promote the game among students in and around Calcutta . The Boys' Club, founded by Nagendra Prasad around this time, was the first Indian initiative at football organization.

Later Nagendra Prasad formed a series of sporting clubs in the 1880s, one of the first being the Wellington . Afterwards, he founded the Sovabazar Club, one of the leading sports institutions of colonial India.
In the year 1893, Indian Football Association (IFA) was founded. Amongst the founders was former England international Elphinstone Jackson. In its formative years Englishmen dominated the executive committee of the IFA. In fact the only Indian representative was Kalicharan Mitra from the Sovabazar Club. Methodical organisation and sustained efforts to promote the game in Bengal , made the IFA the premier football body in the country in the early decades of the 20th century.

After the formation of IFA, an annual football competition named IFA Shield was started in 1893. IFA Shield is the fourth oldest club cup competition in the world after the English and Scottish FA cup's and the Durand Cup. In 1898, IFA started the Calcutta Football League. This league is the oldest league in Asia and one of the oldest in the world.

During the starting years of IFA Shield & Calcutta Football League mainly the British Clubs of colonial India used to participate. In 1911, the Mohun Bagan Club caused a stir by becoming the first Indian team to lift the IFA Shield, a tournament previously won only by British teams based in India.
Ever since Mohun Bagan defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment in that historic IFA Shield final in 1911, football became a way of life for most of the Calcuttans or rather Indians and to a great extent, Bengal became the home of Indian football.

In Calcutta alone football clubs started growing in large numbers. Some of the oldest football clubs are Mohun Bagan (1889), Mohammedan Sporting (1891), East Bengal (1920), Aryans, Sporting Union, Kalighat, Rajasthan Club.

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