The Red and Gold have been bolstering their squad ahead of the new I-League season…
Kingfisher East Bengal FC have bolstered their squad for the upcoming I-League season commencing from the 7th of January next year. Amidst the race to qualify for the Indian Super League playoffs, East Bengal officials have been successful in finalising a few deals before the I-League begins.
Ugandan defender Ivan Bukenya arrived in Kolkata on Thursday morning. The former Kaizer Chiefs player touched down at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport from Dubai by an Emirates Airlines flight. The stout looking defender was dressed in white tees with a jacket. He was spotted wearing sunglasses as he came out of the airport amidst cheering East Bengal fans gathered there. The 6 ft 4 inches tall defender was escorted straight to his accommodation from the airport.
Ivan Bukenya arrives at the Kolkata airport today ahead of signing for East Bengal.
He will visit the club on Friday and meet the officials. The footballer will be practising under Goalkeeping Coach Abhijit Mondal and Academy Coach Ranjan Chowdhury at the club before giving a medical test in front of the team doctor tomorrow morning. If he passes the test then he will be the second foreign recruit of the club for the forthcoming I-League season.
British defender Calum Angus who plied his trade for the Kolkata giants in the Calcutta Football League and Bordoloi Trophy fell sick post the tournament in Assam and was released by the club as he went home without informing any of the officials. East Bengal were in search of a strong stopper to partner Arnab Mondal and Gurwinder Singh in the heart of the defense. They were in talks with Delhi Dynamos’ Anas Edathodika but negotiations were unsuccessful.
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Coach Trevor Morgan was also in search of a foreigner centre-back from Africa and he found Bukenya from Uganda who had an impressive spell in the South African Premier Soccer League for Kaizer Chiefs. Bukenya has played for the Uganda national team in 8 matches from 2010. He began his professional club football career for Ugandan club Proline FC before heading to Iraq to play for Arbil FC in the Iraqi Premier League from 2011-13.
Bukenya helped his club to qualify for the AFC Cup in the 2012-13 season and helped them reach the Final where they finished runners-up. During that period, East Bengal were also playing in the AFC Cup and were in the same group with Arbil FC. Morgan was the coach of the Kolkata club then and he had a keen eye on the defender as he was marvellous for Arbil in the group stage match against East Bengal.
The Red and Gold officials wanted to sign him the very next season but could not as he was still contracted with the Iraqi club. During that AFC Cup Arbil conceded the least number of goals in the competition. In the next season he joined South African club Kaizer Chiefs on a two-year deal and then extended it by one more year playing 37 matches for them with some stupendous performances he earned the nickname the “Great wall of China” in the defensive line. The “Great Wall of China” has also played in the U-20 CECAF Championship for Uganda.
Meanwhile, star striker Balwant Singh is all set to don the Red and Gold jersey this season after recovering from his groin injury which he sustained playing for Mohun Bagan in the I-League last season and which kept him out of the remaining part of the season as well as the ISL. Balwant had helped both Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan to win the I-League as well as Federation Cup and had a huge transformation in his career graph from the 2013 season.
On the other hand, Haitian star forward Kervens Belfort who is playing for the Kerala Blasters in the ISL is set to be the third foreigner. He has played 10 games for the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned franchise scoring two goals and two assists and has been very impressive throughout the season. East Bengal are yet to find a replacement for Korean midfielder Do-Dong-Hyun who was released few days back. Coach Morgan and officials are in talks with a lot of Asian players and it is understood they have shortlisted two names, Croatian-Australian striker Mirjan Pavlovic and Japanese midfielder Kenta Uchida.
Report by Khel Now Correspondent Kushankur Rony Rakshit. Sports passionate and content writer. He is big football and cricket fan.