ISL needs East Bengal, says Bhaichung Bhutia

For football to do well and for the Indian Super League to do well, they require East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. They require that kind of rivalry, says former India captain Bhutia.

Bhutia is keen to see East Bengal play in the Indian Super League.

Bhutia is keen to see East Bengal play in the Indian Super League.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia – one of the few players to have donned the colours of both the Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan – feels the Kolkata clubs have failed to evolve with changing times. 

“Sadly, I feel the two clubs need to do a lot more. The officials, especially, must try to become more professional as football has changed over the years. If you don’t change, you will stay where you are and it’s exactly (the case) with Indian football,” he told Sportstar.

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“The world has changed, but we have stayed in our glorious years in the ’60s and ’70s. We have not changed with time and that is why we have been lagging. Even the game on the field has changed so much, but the management – I think you’ve got to change and be professional and deal with the time,” he added.

Mohun Bagan, which recently won the I-League, will merge with ISL champion ATK to forge a new entity for the next season and Bhutia feels it was a necessity for Bagan. “If ATK can’t utilise Mohun Bagan with this merger, then I think it will be a waste of money. For Mohun Bagan, it is a step in the right direction, but it depends on how ATK utilises it. Mohun Bagan have been struggling financially in terms of sponsors and they needed investors to come in.

“But for ATK, when they merge with Mohun Bagan, what are they taking? They are taking Mohun Bagan’s identity, history, and legacy and it should be utilised to the maximum,” he asserted.

Elaborating on the ISL club’s failure to attract fans, Bhutia said: “ATK has done well in ISL, but despite doing well the fact is they have not had the kind of fan following that Mohun Bagan or East Bengal enjoy.”

The former India striker is also hoping to see East Bengal join the top echelon of Indian football soon. “I would definitely want East Bengal to play the top league if the ISL is the top league. But at the same time, let us not forget that even ISL needs East Bengal and vice versa. Today, the La Liga cannot do without Barcelona and Real Madrid and the two clubs cannot do without the league. So, I think it is a win-win situation for both parties. If not this year, then somewhere ­down the line East Bengal is bound to play the top league,” he said. 

He added, “The AIFF president Praful Patel has said that in the next two or three years we will have promotion from the I-League to the ISL. If not automatically through promotion, East Bengal will play in the ISL. For football to do well and for ISL to do well, they require East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. They require that kind of rivalry.”

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