Bhutia excited for East Bengal's new era and possible ISL move

It remains to be seen how the organiser Football Sports Development Limited accommodates a new franchise with less than three months left for the tournament.

Bhaichung Bhutia holds the record for most goals scored in East Bengal’s history.   -  Stan Rayan

Indian football great Bhaichung Bhutia on Wednesday hailed East Bengal’s tie-up with Shree Cement and hoped it would end the dominance of “maidan karmakartas” (officials) as the club gears up to make a foray into the Indian Super League.

Following the path of its arch-rival Mohun Bagan, East Bengal sold a majority stake to city-based Shree Cement, clearing the decks for making a strong bid to play in this season’s ISL.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee personally intervened in the negotiation and made the announcement at the state secretariat, Nabanna, saying “all problems are solved East Bengal will now play in the ISL.”

“I’m very excited that East Bengal finally got an investor and are going to play in the ISL. I’m very, very happy for the fans especially. They truly deserved to see East Bengal in the ISL. This could also be the end of an era of Maidan Karmakartas,” Bhutia told PTI.

The former India captain, who is one of the club’s greatest players, was referring to interference of officials in football activities that was believed to be the reason behind East Bengal’s fallout with Bengaluru-based Quess Corp, who snapped ties one year ahead of their term, throwing the team in jeopardy.

Earlier this year, the RP Sanjiv Goenka-owned ATK bought a majority stake in Mohun Bagan, paving the way for the 131-year-old club to play in the ISL.

Founded in Beawar of Rajasthan in 1979, Shree Cement is headquartered in Kolkata. The chairman of the group is Kolkata-born entrepreneur, B G Bangur, and the managing director of the company is his elder son, Hari Mohan Bangur.

“First Mohun Bagan, and now East Bengal going (the corporate way)... This could also be an end of the era of Maidan Karmakatas. I don’t want to explain more, everyone knows what I’m trying to say here.”

Looking back at the Quess fallout, Bhutia said: “I’m not aware of what happened exactly between Quess and East Bengal. But that was obviously something very, very unfortunate. I hope those things are not repeated.”

The club will now have to apply to play in the ISL and it remains to be seen how the organisers Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) accommodates a new franchise with less than three months left for the tournament.

“The excitement is going to be very, very high with both Mohun Bagan, East Bengal on board. I’ve always said that ISL required East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. The same way Mohun Bagan, East Bengal need ISL.

“It’s like you can’t have the highest league in the country without Real Madrid and Barcelona. They (East Bengal and Mohun Bagan) also have a big fan following. I have always maintained that.”

The tournament is slated to be held in Goa from the third week of November.

“I’ve always said to East Bengal don’t panic. It will happen. It’s not like life is coming to an end. Both require each other. ISL does require these two clubs,” Bhutia said.

“Being an East Bengal person, I’m very excited to see them play in ISL now. Mostly happy for fans because of the club’s legacy and fans and in the 100 years they will play in the top-tier league. So the derby is on,” he concluded.

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