Kolkata: As shameful as it can be. It is perhaps for the first time the misfortune refuses to part ways with the century-old East Bengal Club. Having finished ninth among 11 teams in the Indian Super League 2020-21, the red-and-golds are no better in the ongoing edition too.
Having lost the derby convincingly 3-0 to ATK Mohun Bagan, the SC East Bengal didn’t fare any better in the matches that followed. They are now on two points from five outings and languishing at the bottom of the table.
The Kolkata giants had a forgettable journey last year when the team despite getting less time could recruit some players with individual brilliance but were done in by lack of pre-season training coupled with poor team management.
This time around, when every East Bengal fan hoped for a dramatic turnaround, the team looked even worse. On the other hand, last year’s runners-up Mohun Bagan look a much-settled unit, despite a few hiccups, after having retained most of the players.
However, there are a plethora of reasons why the red-and-golds are failing on the ground day in day out. Even one month before the start of the country’s highest league, the team-building process was in complete doldrums. The club officials were found wasting time by indulging themselves in shadow boxing with their investor Shree Cement Limited.
Investor Shree Cement is equally responsible for shoddy team selection and lack of knowledge of the game. Subsequently, the sentiments of millions of supporters are at stake now.
In fact, the whole team-building process of East Bengal left a lot to be desired. Thanks to the acrimonious attitude of the club officials as well as the investor, the club landed on the scene when FIFA’s international transfer window was closed.
During the time when the transfer window was open, the club officials and the investor were beating their own trumpets to get hold of the club’s administration. Football was pushed to the backseat.
As a result, the club was forced to depend on foreign recruits with very mediocre curriculum vitae. As far as Indian players are concerned, the red-and-golds could get the services of players who were released by other ISL outfits.
No marks for guessing the quality of players they could sign in the build-up to the season. The lackadaisical attitude of the recruiters saw Narayan Das and Sarthak Dolui switching allegiance to save their careers and the Kolkata side had to recruit Hira Mondol and Ankit Mukherjee.
It’s less said the better as far as foreign recruits are concerned. Tomislav Mrcela, Franjo Prce, Amir Dervisevic, Darren Sidoel and Daniel Chima Chukwa looked way below the league’s standard. Barring Antonio Perosevic none looked on par with the other foreigners turning out for the rest of the 10 teams in the league.
Even coach Manolo Diaz failed to impress with his selection in the first five matches. The fragile defence leaked in as many as 14 goals to stare down the barrel.
After losing 6-4 to Odisha FC, Spanish coach Diaz openly confessed that players are not up to the mark for this tournament. After the confession of the coach, one thing was crystal clear that the team-building process had no involvement from the coach in contrast with the club management’s claim that the team was made in consultation with the Spaniard.
Now with things going awry for the club, the management should come forward with a version as to who was in charge of team building. Beating around the bush won’t suffice as the millions of supporters feel betrayed for two seasons in succession.
The management should detail the names of the persons who were bestowed with the responsibility of picking the team for the ongoing season. Would they accept the challenge?
This management’s inefficiency coupled with inexperience has also made the century-old club victim of injustice from the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) side too.
For forthcoming ISL matches, East Bengal have to keep the team in quarantine for 11 days, due to a minor glitch in the system. Whereas for Sunil Chhetri, who had visited New Delhi to receive the Khel Ratna award, and Roy Krishna, who left his hotel to attend to her pregnant wife, did not have to adhere to the quarantine rules framed by the organisers and had to stay in isolation for just a day.
Surprisingly, nobody from East Bengal Club flagged the issue for this blatant discrimination. Not a single letter was shot from the Shree Cement’s side to the Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) that operates the ISL pointing out the double standards.
East Bengal Club officials, on the other hand, are trying to pose the good men by sending a letter to Bangur group president, Hari Mohan Bangur to make immediate changes in the team for a better fortune.
For the record, the international transfer window will open on January 1 and it’s not clear whether Shree Cement Limited will go for better ‘buys’ to turn the fortunes around. Post-January, East Bengal will still have 12 games in hand, which is enough to make a respectable sign off to the campaign.