Although you haven’t mentioned which era but I am assuming that to be the pre-independence era when the football players of Mohun Bagan were looked upon as national heroes. The reason is a little complicated for today’s generation to understand because these days we don’t see the kind of racial arrogance that many Whites in general and English, in particular, used to indulge back in those days.
The English, who were masters of deception and propaganda, had always mocked the physical attributes of Indians in general and Bengalis in particular. So, when they allowed Mohun Bagan to participate in the IFA (Indian Football Association) Shield little did they know that one day these Bengali footballers will beat them in their own game.
It finally happened in 1911 when Mohun Bagan fought very hard to reach the finals and then did the impossible, they beat a strong English club to win the IFA Shield for the first time. It fired the imagination of the youth in the city of Calcutta and the nationalist press termed it as ‘India’s first fight for independence in sports’.
The British press while acknowledging the speed, skill, strength, and stamina of the Mohun Bagan players, also made an interesting observation, ‘the Indian club played football while the English club played bootball’.
In football, stepping on each other’s toes is a way of life on the football field and even with boots on, it can be very painful indeed. How did the Mohun Bagan players of that time dealing with these painful situations? To think that they not just overcame the pain barrier and went on to win against a well-equipped professional team deserves a big bow. Yes, those guys were the real ‘footballers’…not ‘bootballers’.