East Bengal gets new investor to brighten ISL chances

East Bengal has roped in a new investor in Shree Cement, thereby improving its chances of playing in the Indian Super League (ISL), the top division of Indian football.

East Bengal has roped in a new investor in Shree Cement.   -  PTI

East Bengal on Wednesday announced the arrival of Shree Cement as a new investor, which will help the club tide over its financial problems and increase its chances of playing in India’s top football league.

“After this agreement, we will be in a position to appeal to the ISL (Indian Super League) and hope to participate in the tournament,” Debabrata Sarkar, a key East Bengal official, said while making the announcement in presence of the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The announcement was made at the West Bengal government headquarters, Nabanna, where the agreement was finalised with the help of the chief minister.

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“I was worried about the crisis in Bengal football. But we are all relieved now that the problem has been solved. East Bengal will now play the ISL together with Mohun Bagan, which got into the ISL previously because of a similar kind of an agreement,” Banerjee said. Ever since she was approached by East Bengal officials early in May, the West Bengal chief minister was trying to bail the club out of its distress. It is because of her efforts that East Bengal finds itself in a position to realise its ISL dreams.

East Bengal, which celebrated its centenary on August 1, found itself in financial wilderness after the agreement with its previous sponsor, Quess Corp, fell through earlier this year. Shree Cement, a cement behemoth with its corporate headquarters in Kolkata, is said to have acquired a 76 percent of the stake in East Bengal as part of the agreement.

Sarkar, who had all along maintained that East Bengal would play in the ISL this season, thanked Banerjee for her support in realising the deal. “There were some unresolved issues in the previous discussion with our investor. But thanks to the intervention of Didi (Banerjee), those problems that were holding up the agreement have been sorted out and we can now move ahead to the next objective, which playing the ISL,” he said. According to sources, East Bengal’s new investor has agreed to preserve both its emblem of a flaming torch and the red-and-gold colours.

Watch East Bengal legends, Bhaichung Bhutia and Renedy Singh, a long-standing club official  Dr. Shanti Ranjan Dasgupta and AIFF general secretary Kushal Das discuss the legendary Kolkata club's legacy and the current challenges it faces in our second episode of the Star Talk series.

Alvito D’Cunha, the star East Bengal midfielder who after retirement has become an advisor and mentor to the team, said the news comes as a great relief for the club and its fans. “It is a great day for all East Bengal supporters. There were so many questions and so much uncertainty in the last few months. But finally thanks to the efforts of the club officials and thanks to Didi, these questions have finally been answered. It is a very proud moment for all of us. Now the next step would be to get into the ISL,” he said.

D’Cunha felt East Bengal’s ISL chances are really bright. “Mr Praful Patel (All India Football Federation president) had said a few days ago that East Bengal should get an investor and play in the ISL. The team now has an investor. The good thing is that ISL has not yet declared the final teams or the fixtures. I believe there is a big season of us playing the ISL from this season onwards,” he said.

The architect of East Bengal’s ASEAN Cup triumph in 2003 said that East Bengal’s inclusion will create the right atmosphere in ISL. “After Mohun Bagan joined the ISL following its merger with ATK, many thought East Bengal will be playing the I-League in the absence of an investor. Our fans were worried that they may not be able to see the derby for the next few years. The Mohun Bagan fans should also be happy now, because if there is no East Bengal-Mohun Bagan derby, there is no charm in Indian football. Now, with both the teams coming in, ISL will become more glamorous,” D’Cunha said.

Tarun Jhunjhunwala, the chief executive of Reliance in Bengal who also figured in finalising the investor, said that all the efforts will be made to see East Bengal figuring in this season’s ISL. “There are some formalities which need to be completed. With East Bengal and Mohun Bagan together, it will be a new beginning for Indian football,” he said.

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