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Dissecting East Bengal’s maverick transfer policy in the I-League era

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The Kolkata giants' follow the leader approach has seen them spend huge amounts of money for very little success.

Well, its curtains to yet another entertaining season of Indian football. We saw the emergence of new heroes, the Davids slaying the Goliaths, empires fall, kingdoms rise and what not. Truly, it was a very exciting season that culminated with the inaugural Super Cup, where I-League and ISL clubs locked horns against each other for the very first time.

Ahead of a fresh season, clubs are already into the business by patching up wounds, calling in  for reinforcements and refuelling the engines to better their previous performances. As always, Kingfisher East Bengal FC are out with their bag full of trickery, ready to pounce on their transfer targets, before their rivals even sniff a chance to hijack them.

Only hours ago, the club was embroiled in a controversy that saw mercury levels soar in Indian football. As a matter of fact, the noisy neighbours of Mohun Bagan announced the signing of as many as five players from I-League 2017/18 champions Minerva Punjab only couple of days ago, which included Sukhdev Singh, Deepak Devrani and Bali Gagandeep. But in reality, it was only GK Rakshit Dagar who had accepted terms in pen and paper.

Reacting to it, Minerva Punjab FC absolutely lambasted the East Bengal FC’s claims and warned them about taking legal actions. "I don't know how the club and media can announce officially and both players and the club (Minerva Punjab FC) have no idea about it. We are considering taking legal action against East Bengal for spreading such false information", said Mr. Ranjit Bajaj, CEO of Minerva Punjab.

In a similar dress rehearsal before the start of the 2017/18 season, the canny operators of East Bengal FC management were busy in their drills, preparing mindmaps for the season ahead. Lalramchullova, Mahmoud Al-Amnah, Brandon Vanlalremdika and Laldanmawia Ralte had just won the I-League 2016/17 for Aizawl FC under Khalid Jamil. However, all four of them were roped in by the Kolkata giants for the next season. They even managed to lure away coach Khalid Jamil from Aizawl to join the ranks in Kolkata, where he had to replace Englishmen Trevor Morgan after a debacle the previous season. However, the team could not prove to be a clinical side in the long run and finished 4th.

In fact, there are numerous instances of similar kind when East Bengal included the best of the previous season into their roster, aiming to win that maiden I-League title that has eluded them since the 11 years now. Like a fat greedy bloke would boast, the Red and Gold brigade always managed to run away with the cream of the crop, but didn’t yield any significant return for the investment. This has been their story for quite some time now.

For the 2009-10 season, East Bengal acquired the services of Govin Singh and Reisangmei Vashum from 2008-09 champions Churchill Brothers. But they could only finish as runners up behind Salgaocar. Still in search of their maiden I-League success, the following year they pitched in to bring Salgaocar forward Chidi Edeh. And luck failed them yet again, for it was Dempo’s year.

In 2013-14, East Bengal bought Nigerian talismanic striker Ranti Martins from United SC with an attempt to flip the stroke of bad luck. Martins did not disappoint but on a personal note. In his two seasons with the club, Martins walked away with the Golden Boot award as many times, taking his personal tally to five. Once again, East Bengal were left reeling with some unfinished business.



East Bengal announced six signings, four of them were from Minerva

In the summer of 2017, the footballing fraternity witnessed yet another bizarre moment of cheap mentality and tactical foul play when East Bengal management literally toyed with the contract matters of promising young talent Abhinas Ruidas. While Ruidas joined the club for one season, the club turned up in full volume against him claiming that he had signed for two seasons. However, the AIFF came to Ruidas' rescue as they settled the matter and Ruidas was allowed to leave.


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Subhash Bhowmick blames lack of planning for league debacle, takes dig at Khalid Jamil

Mohammedan Sporting part ways with head coach Biswajit Bhattacharya


While history holds East Bengal as one of the major clubs in Indian football, but their inability to win the coveted I-League title since its inception in 2007-08 has put serious question marks to the revival of the club’s age-old legacy. It seems the ‘Boro Team’ of Kolkata as well as Indian football is slowly losing its charm and spark. In such a scenario, the heart goes out to those countless number of passionate East Bengal supporters including the likes of Jamuna Mashi (the evergreen lady) who turn up for the maches day in and day out.

The impatience and lack of character shown by the team management by their impetuous decision making hints at the club’s level of exasperation. Be it The Ultras or The Radicals or whatever, they must realize that East Bengal’s stringent philosophy of ‘perform or perish’ is only backfiring them in the long run. As time keeps on slipping into the future, all we can do is just wait and watch whether or not the Lal Holudh can reclaim their lost glory.

Published: Tue May 01, 2018 12:25 PM IST

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