Kolkata-based football club East Bengal reportedly sold 70% of their shares to Bengaluru-based business service provider Quess Corp Ltd on July 5. This move ruffled a lot of feathers in not just India’s footballing capital, but the whole country. The club has since been named ‘Quess East Bengal FC’ and the influx of money has been on display, with Costa Rican defender Johnny Acosta Zamora already in their ranks.
This move involves a financial aspect. So, let us start with a historical check of events that have triggered responses from rival clubs.
East Bengal have already signed Costa Rican international Johnny Acosta
Real Madrid had signed the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in the summer of 2009, with arch-nemesis FC Barcelona responding with the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan. This did not trigger a competition between duo, but certainly helped the world to watch Ronaldo and Lionel Messi compete with each other regularly.
When Manchester City made Pep Guardiola the highest paid coach in world football in 2016, rivals United retorted with his long-time adversary Jose Mourinho, even after his sacking from Chelsea the previous season.
Both rivalries eventually saw ceilings of time, aggression, hatred, love and mutual respect. That is exactly how football is defined. Modern football, though, has been defined by money and talent has been exchanged for suitcases regularly all across continents.
Barcelona were enriched by Qatar Airways in 2010 and Paris-Saint Germain got their influx from the Emirates. These two deals and the AC Milan-Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux deal, have redefined or at least made a mark on modern football.
While these references only provide a prima facie, there’s no ignoring the fact that they have left lasting impressions, one that the Quess-East Bengal deal looks set to imprint on Indian football as well.
East Bengal have formally announced that they’re pursuing their ‘dream’ to play in the Indian Super League (ISL) and with the recent deal, it looks close to concretion. Mohun Bagan, their rivals, are also looking for similar backing.
Importantly, East Bengal are willing to open up the football market financially, with both pros and cons. According to a recent report, EB are willing to buy Bengaluru FC duo Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh, players known to be winners and influential and such deals are exactly the ones that transform scenarios.
If the Red and Gold manage to wriggle Chhetri out of Bengaluru, a club he’s been part and captain of since its inception, it will be a footballing and a psychological victory. Marketing-wise, Chhetri is above every player, probably in the history of Indian football. The club is also reportedly in talks with Robinho, the former Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester City winger, famously known for his smooth stepovers.
The contracts at East Bengal, Khel Now expects, get better. The media management team has shown improved responses in the few days since the deal was made official, press releases have looked more professional and information-loaded and the club is trying to undergo a wholistic change.
Had East Bengal stayed in the I-league and signed big names, the ISL would have had some competition. With the change in leagues, the Red and Gold will make the financially smoother league ever more glittering, with their legacy, fan-base and history.
Mohun Bagan, too, are certain to follow suit, if not now, in the near future. One question still stands – where will these teams host their home games? Three clubs in the same city is a chance the ISL might not be willing to take at this stage. 10 years down the line, India might see that happening.
Goa, meanwhile, has had such a situation in the past, with four clubs vying for the I-league at the same time. However, the ISL is a different pond altogether, and have their own stringent rules. Chances of three clubs having bases in the same state look unlikely. Are the legacy clubs willing to let go of their home stadiums, bastions, fan-bases to enjoy the glitz, glamour and football of the ISL?
Only time will tell…