Former Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia has said that East Bengal should not be judged on their performances in the Indian Super League this season, saying that the team should be given some time to build and adapt to the league.
East Bengal was announced as the 11th team to be playing in the ISL for the 2020-21 season, after they finally found an investor in Shree Cements after months of speculation, and completed the bid process after submitting the requisite documents to FSDL (Football Sports Development Limited). The announcement confirming East Bengal’s participation was made on Sunday, September 27.
However, Bhutia has sought to temper expectations as far as East Bengal’s performances in the league are concerned.
“From the fans point of view, everyone was looking to play the ISL this year. That has been achieved,” Bhutia told PTI.
“Obviously, there is going to be a challenge in building the team. We should not really judge the team’s performance this year.“
East Bengal are yet to announce a manager for the upcoming season, and by extension, haven’t made any new signings. Bhutia suggested that the ‘red and gold’ would find it hard to attract players at such a short notice, with a few teams already having reached Goa in preparation for the league that will be played across three venues in the state.
‘All good Indian players have got long-term contracts. To build a team is going to take time because no player would be available in the market right now. Jhingan has signed for five years (with ATK Mohun Bagan). All top-quality players will have long-term contracts with their respective clubs. I think East Bengal will have to build long-term. They will have to develop players,” he added.
East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan: Kolkata derby in the ISL
Bhutia also spoke about how it was good for fans to see the Kolkata derby between East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan in the ISL this year. He is no stranger to derbies between the two, having famously scored a hat-trick in the Federation Cup playing for East Bengal against Mohun Bagan in 1997.
“I think East Bengal should do well. The motivation and passion for a derby is at a different level, whatever may be the tournament. Emotions soar up,” he said.
“It is totally a game of nerves. If the best players can’t keep their nerves, they can’t perform. It’s got a lot to do with the nerves and depends on who can take the pressure well on that given day. Anything can happen,” he added.
Bhutia expressed happiness at the inclusion of East Bengal in the league alongside ATK Mohun Bagan, and said that the “competition and quality of the league is going to be much higher now."
East Bengal are expected to announce their new head coach soon.