One hundred years of East Bengal: Looking to the future

Three Indian football icons Bhaichung Bhutia, Subhash Bhowmick and Subrata Bhattacharya pay tribute to East Bengal as the club completes a century.

"I still vividly remember the day I scored the first Kolkata Derby hat-trick (in the Federation Cup semifinals in 1997) in front of a 130,000 spectators," says Bhaichung Bhutia.   -  PTI

Three Indian football icons Bhaichung Bhutia, Subhash Bhowmick and Subrata Bhattacharya pay tribute to East Bengal as the club completes a century.

Bhaichung Bhutia

One of the greatest Indian footballers of all times, Bhutia rose to his iconic status with East Bengal.

It is my first club as a professional footballer. I am always thankful to East Bengal for giving a 17-year-old the opportunity with a contract as a professional player. I have always enjoyed playing there and I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the fans of this great club.

As a player, the memories that rush to you are about winning matches and tournaments. I still vividly remember the day I scored the first Kolkata Derby hat-trick (in the Federation Cup semifinals in 1997) in front of a 130,000 spectators. East Bengal to me is about great memories.

As a player, my loyalty has been largely with East Bengal because I always felt so important there. It is the club that gave me due recognition as a footballer. The East Bengal fans appreciated my ability and gave true recognition to my talents. For me, most of the memorable achievements as a player happened wearing the bright red-and-gold jersey.

READ| Renedy clarifies FPAI's stance on East Bengal's ISL inclusion

It is a great, old and passionately followed club. It has a rich history and legacy that makes it one of the best football clubs in the country and the continent. I hope it is able to carry forward its great identity in the future and becomes an even bigger professional club in the years to come.

It pains me a lot to see the club struggling to find a sponsor at the threshold of its centenary. It has been facing a lot of challenges in terms of sponsors and investors. When a club endures such kind of hurdles, it definitely becomes unstable. Like a lot of players who love East Bengal, we would love to see the club prosper. We feel East Bengal belongs among the best in the country and should be a part of the ISL (Indian Super League). We are just trying to ensure what it deserves best.

Three Indian football icons pay tribute to East Bengal as the club completes a century.

Subhash Bhowmick says East Bengal has always been a team that is known for its spirit and commitment to the club’s righteous philosophy.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

Subhash Bhowmick

One of the key figures of East Bengal both as a player and as a coach. He was at the helm when East Bengal won the ASEAN Club Championship and back-to-back National Football League titles.

I have enjoyed my association with East Bengal both as a player and later as a coach. East Bengal represented India when winning ASEAN Club Championship. I used to keep the national tricolour in the dressing room alongside the East Bengal flag. The ASEAN title and two back-to-back NFL titles in the early half of the 2000s is a golden period in East Bengal’s history, but I remember the 2008-2009 season more vividly in my association with the club. That was the time when East Bengal was totally outplayed by Mohun Bagan. I remember the club losing a number of matches and one evening, when I was holidaying in Shantiniketan, I got a call from the club president who asked me to take charge of a completely devastated team ahead of the derby (the second meeting of the I-League, February 22, 2009). I took charge and was astounded to see that the morale of the East Bengal team had touched rock bottom. This is something that is not associated with East Bengal, which has always been a team that was known for its spirit and commitment to the club’s righteous philosophy.

READ| East Bengal announces Bruto Da Costa as new coach

I was really disappointed to see fantastic players like Sunil Chhetri, Surkumar Singh, Yusif Yakubu, Renedy Singh and Rahim Nabi sitting in the dressing room with their chins down. I tried to motivate and bring back life in the team. We went on to win the derby 3-0 where Nabi scored twice and Chhetri once to make it one of the most satisfying wins for East Bengal. I have always seen East Bengal as a team where the jersey transforms the spirit of the player and they achieve the unthinkable. In the last few years, I find the spirit missing again and everything is in doldrums. The club has tried different Spanish coaches, but I do not find the team picking up the spirit. I sincerely hope East Bengal is able to address this and march into the century with that same spirit and fire that is signified by its flaming jersey.

"I will congratulate the East Bengal club officials in the way they show respect to their former players. This is something that we find lacking in some of the great clubs," says Subrata Bhattacharya.   -  Vino John

 

Subrata Bhattacharya

The former India captain is a Mohun Bagan stalwart both as a player and as a National Football League-winning coach.

East Bengal is a big club and it feels nice to see it completing a century. East Bengal, like Mohun Bagan, is a true representative of Indian football. In many ways, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan complement each other by signifying two different footballing ideologies. I have seen East Bengal since the days of its great administrator, Jyotish Guha. I have every reason to believe that they employed the right administrative practices and came out with a number of stalwarts who made football in Bengal and India proud with their performances. East Bengal’s tradition is very rich and it can be gauged from the amount of success this club has found on the football field.

READ| EB’s priority is to support COVID-19 affected people, not to play in ISL: ASEAN Cup winners

I will congratulate the East Bengal club officials in the way they show respect to their former players. This is something that we find lacking in some of the great clubs.

At this juncture, I feel that both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan should be receiving more support from the government and different institutions to be in a strong position in the future. It is the responsibility of the government to see that both these century-old clubs have their own stadiums and other facilities so that they can embrace a better professional setup.