Recently, in an interview, 43-year old former India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia commented on the inclusion of East Bengal FC in the Indian Super League. While he welcomed the move, he also threw in a hint of caution in his comments. "Do not judge East Bengal's performance this year," he said. It only seems fair, given the fact that several clubs in the labyrinth of the ISL have come and gone over the past few seasons.
However, things might be different when it comes to the 'Red and Gold' brigade. For starters, given their rich history, it is highly unlikely that the club will fold under the financial pressures of the ISL.
It may take time for East Bengal FC to adjust to life in the ISL, and build a match-winning squad. But given their heritage, the club has all the potential in the world to become a powerhouse in India's top league.
East Bengal FC: A rich history
East Bengal FC has a rich footballing history. In over a hundred years of existence, the club has faced many challenges.
It all began in the 1920 final of the Coochbehar Cup. Mohun Bagan, already a 31-year old club at the time, was battling against Jora Bagan. However, the controversy was to strike the final when Shailesh Bose and Nasha Sen were forced to withdraw from the XI due to their origins in the eastern half of Bengal, hence their subsequent disqualification.
Protests came from chairman Suresh Chandra Chaudhari who called for the players' inclusion in the XI. However, these requests fell on deaf ears, even though Chaudhari came from the eastern parts of Bengal. Thus, born out of discrimination and relentless protest, East Bengal Football Club was born on the 1st of August 1920.
Shailesh Bose, Nasha Sen, A Banerjee, M Talukdar, and Ramesh Chandra Sen was part of the inaugural outfit and the 'Red and Gold' brigade was born. Despite strong resistance to their presence within Indian football at the time, Chaudhari was successful in ensuring that the club was affiliated to the India Football Association.
Although it took 22 years from the birth of the club to win the Calcutta football league (CFL), East Bengal FC has been one of the most successful and decorated clubs in the history of Indian football. Since then, East Bengal has won a total of 163 trophies. 115 of these have been major domestic accolades, while four trophies have come from overseas tournaments.
In all the years that the Red and Gold have been in existence, the Calcutta Football League and the Darjeeling Gold Cup have been the most consistent titles trophy cabinet. East Bengal won them in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The 2003-04 season was the last time they lifted the I-League.
Besides, the club boasts of having the most number of appearances in the AFC Cup, a tournament that witnesses some of the best clubs in Asia participate. East Bengal has featured 8 times in the tournament, having made it to the semi-finals in the 2013 edition.
The 2020/21 ISL and the Kolkata Derby
It was seemingly only a matter of time before East Bengal became a part of the Indian Super league fold. In fact, following the marriage between ATK and Mohun Bagan to form ATK Mohun Bagan, it is only fitting that the Kolkata Derby moves from the I-League to the ISL.
East Bengal fans will certainly be eager for a major Indian footballing trophy, something that has eluded the club since their record 39th Calcutta Football League win in 2017. The ISL Championship and the Indian Super Cup would be on the wishlist of the 'Red and Gold' brigade for the upcoming season.Published 02 Oct 2020, 15:50 IST