Former Indian captain and East Bengal footballer Bhaichung Bhutia has said that the Red and Gold brigade have enough time to build a team for this season’s Indian Super League (ISL).
East Bengal on Wednesday announced Shree Cements as their new investor and further declared that they will now appeal to the organisers of the ISL to become a part of this season’s competition.
“I am very happy that finally East Bengal got an investor and are hopeful of playing ISL this year. I am really happy for the fans. They have been praying to see East Bengal play in the top league,” Bhutia told IANS on Thursday.
The East Bengal Bengal and Shree Cements officials made the announcement in a joint press conference with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The nature of the partnership and the official information on the deal between the business entity and the football club are yet to be known.
Evern since city rivals Mohun Bagan had joined hands with ATK to get their name registered in ISL, East Bengal were under tremendous pressure to make their case for India’s premier football competition.
Due to a broken deal with previous investor Quests and financial instability, the Kolkata giants were earlier denied entry into the ISL by the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL). But with a new investor at their disposal, East Bengal’s fate has turned for the better.
The seventh edition of the ISL is set to start in Goa in the third week of November. Asked if East Bengal have enough time to build a team and at the same time fulfil all formalities, Bhutia said: “I think they have enough time. Other teams have also not really started training and some, like Chennaiyin FC and NorthEast United, have just appointed their coaches. Even Hyderabad FC had to change.
“East Bengal have already signed quite a few players, I think. So I don’t think there should be any problem,” said Bhutia, who began his career with East Bengal in 1992 and went on to win every single trophy with the club, including one National Football League title and the ASEAN Cup in 2003. The iconic former striker had five different stints donning red-and-gold starting between 1993 and 2011.
The player transfer window closes on October 20 and the registration deadline is October 23. East Bengal are yet to appoint a head coach and are still in talks with Spaniard Mario Rivera who guided the red-and-gold brigade to a second place finish in the truncated I-League.
Bhutia said his advice to East Bengal would be to forget everything and go and win the ‘trophy’. “I think they have learnt their lessons from the past [with former investors Quess]. I am sure everybody will become more mature now,” he hoped.
Bhutia also said if East Bengal do play the ISL this season, he would be eagerly waiting to see them and arch-rivals ATK-Mohun Bagan lock horns. “I am very excited to see the derby in the ISL. I can assure you that East Bengal and Mohun Bagan coming to the ISL will bring more charm. It will lift the tournament.”
Talking about the I-League, Bhutia stressed it will continue to do well despite missing Mohun Bagan — and possibly East Bengal, if they join the ISL bandwagon. “I-League will continue to do well. They will still have ambition that clubs could qualify for the ISL in a few years time when relegation and promotion starts.”
With IANS inputs