The gala event was organized at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday evening.
The centenary celebrations continue for East Bengal on the auspicious occasion of their Sports Day celebrated every year on Dipak “Poltu” Das’s birthday, as it was organized at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on Tuesday, August 13 in Kolkata.
Das was one of the greatest administrators and a pioneer who took the Red and Gold to greater heights. Hence, the East Bengal Sports Day is celebrated on his birthday every year, paying tribute to the great man.
The event was attended by eminent personalities like film director Tarun Majumdar, actor Rudraprasad Sengupta and famous writer Shirshedu Mukhopadhyay. Former players like Sule Musa, Sukumar Samajpati and the 1980s great (Badshah) Majid Bishkar. The felicitation process started by honouring West Bengal Sports Minister Arup Biswas and other dignitaries.
The best moment from the whole event was when Bishkar felicitated his compatriot Jamshed Nassiri. One of the fiercest duos during their time at East Bengal, Bishkar-Nassiri shared a great bond in their playing days. Today, they met for the first time in 32 years.
The gala event continued with the felicitation of former captains of the Red and Gold, starting with the 1960s era which included, Sukumar Samajpati, Parimal Dey and Chandan Banerjee.
They were followed by the captains of the tough 70s period, Sunil Bhattacharya, Swapan Sengupta, Samaresh Choudhury, Gautam Sarkar, Shyamal Ghosh, Surojit Sengupta and Prasanta Banerjee.
The charm of 1980s football was totally different.. While East Bengal’s squad was broken by the departure of a lot of stars, it was the era when the legendary captains along with the great Bishkar-Nassiri duo lifted the spirits of the Red and Gold. The list has former captains like Satyajit Mitra, Manoranjan Bhattacharya, Mohit Bose, Bhaskar Ganguly, Balai Mukherjee, Tarun Dey, Alok Saha and Bikash Panji.
Former India international, Bikash Panji remembering his playing days at the club said, “I and Krishanu (Dey) were like brothers. I am a son of Ghoti (residents of western side of undivided Bengal) and Krishanu was Bangal (residents of eastern side of undivided Bengal, now Bangladesh). But, he had a soft spot for Mohun Bagan. Once I wore this Red and Gold jersey I was sure of my decision and I also had the backing of the huge supporters base, so there was no turning back”.
Then came the 90s period, which was led by captains like Kuljit Singh, Illias Pasha, Swarup Das, Tushar Rakshit, Sumit Mukherjee, Dulal Biswas, Amitabh Chanda and Renedy Singh.
The former East Bengal captain and India international, Renedy spoke about his East Bengal days. “The Red and Gold supporters of Kolkata are amazing. The best feeling is when you score or assist, the supporters always go crazy. The amount of love you get here is exceptional,” Singh quipped.
Meanwhile, the organisers jumped the queue and also felicitated Samad Ali Mallick and Brandon Vanlalremdika, who will be representing the club on Wednesday in the Durand Cup against Bengaluru FC.
Then came the 2000s era, which was full of accolades and the historic ASEAN Club Championship triumph which changed the perspective of Indian football. The captains in this era included players like Bijen Singh, Falguni Dutta, Ajit Ghosh, Sule Musa, Sangram Mukherjee, Dipankar Roy, Alvito D’cunha, Chandan Das, M Suresh and Syed Rahim Nabi.
The captain of the famous Red and Gold side which won the ASEAN Championship, Sule Musa said, “This colour is of my mother club. Whatever I am today I am because of East Bengal. In future, if my children are interested in football I will make sure they play for East Bengal.”
Former East Bengal captain Alvito D’cunha also added, “The support you get playing for East Bengal is a different feeling altogether.”
The next set of captains included some of the great players in the Indian circuit. The list had players like Saumik Dey, Abhra Mondal, Sanju Pradhan, Mehtab Hossain, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Gurwinder Singh, Robert Lalthlamuana, Arnab Mondal, Samad Ali Mallick and Brandon Vanlalremdika.
Former player and current goalkeeping coach Abhra Mondal could not hold back his tears at the event. He expressed: “I have no regrets as a coach, player and as a supporter. I have lived all the roles with this great club and I can proudly say that i have no regrets from this life”.
Fan-favourite and former Indian international Mehtab Hossain earned most of his accolades playing for East Bengal. The midfield general spoke about his journey to becoming the beloved #MH14. “I was at first given the 23 number jersey and then it was changed to 14 and after that, I never looked back.”
The ceremony gradually turned more auspicious as the club showed a great gesture by honouring their former coaches who guided the team to greater heights.
The first batch of coaches included Arun Ghosh, Prabir Majumder, Shyam Thapa, Sayeed Naemuddin, Shyamal Ghosh, Manoranjan Bhattacharya and Subhash Bhowmick.
The ASEAN Club Championship winning coach Subhash Bhowmick said, “At the current age of 70, I can proudly say that I am associated with East Bengal for over fifty years. I am honoured to be a part of the history of this great club. I was part of the club as a coach and also as a player. It is an exceptional feeling, reaching this milestone.
The next phase of coaches had some of the modern-day greats who are known for their tactical acumen in Kolkata Maidan. The list included coaches like Subrata Bhattacharya, Armando Colaco, Chinmoy Chatterjee, Mridul Banerjee, Alok Mukherjee, Biswajit Bhattacharya, Armando Colaco, Alejandro Menedez Garcia and Ranjan Choudhury.
The felicitations ended with the greatest player ever to play for East Bengal, fondly known as Badshah Majid Bishkar, on his return to Kolkata after 32 years. Bishkar was emotional speaking about his playing days as he said, “I should thank those people who selected me worthy of getting the honour of the best foreign player. I also want to thank the officials of East Bengal and especially, Nitu da (Debabrata Sarkar). Also, I should thank the journalists, players, coaches for their love and continuous support. A lot has changed in Kolkata, but the prestigious Red and Gold are still the same.”