Legendary East Bengal duo Bhaichung Bhutia and Subhas Bhowmick on Saturday advised the iconic club to “accept things and move on” as it finds itself at a crossroads after 100 years of excellence.
Born out of adversity in 1920, East Bengal grew on to become one of India’s most successful clubs while forming an epic rivalry with the 131-year-old Mohun Bagan, whose tent lies few metres away.
But without a sponsor the club is struggling to follow Mohun Bagan into the top-tier Indian Super League.
Bhutia, one of the most decorated players of Indian football, said ISL’s “branding will only go up” by the inclusion of his former club.
“As an East Bengal fan, player, person, we all like to see East Bengal play the top tier league in the country which is ISL right now. We want to see East Bengal in ISL, everybody should work towards that and it should be our aim.
“But if you are not in the ISL this year, if East Bengal missed out and they (Football Sports Development Limited) are not increasing the teams, and we don’t get an investor, which we want, then we got to accept things and keep trying for the future.”
Greeting the fans and club officials on a day it completes 100 years, the former Indian captain added, “I can only say the quality and branding of ISL is just going to go up if East Bengal come.”
The 43-year-old picked the 2003 ASEAN Cup triumph and the 1997 Federation Cup semifinal hat-trick as his best moments with club.
“It’s a historical and great day for all East Bengal fans. I would like to wish all East Bengal fans and families a very happy centenary day. It’s an honour to be a part of the legacy club, such wonderful memories with East Bengal. It will be there forever.”
Bhowmick, who was also the coach during the famous ASEAN Cup triumph in Indonesia, said East Bengal is undoubtedly the best club of India.
“Let any other club in India win a tournament on foreign soil and then talk about East Bengal,” he said, summing up the current drama over the club not being able to make the top- tier ISL.
“Today, it’s my humble appeal to club officials and fans that stop being sad and stop fretting about not able to play in ISL. If we have to play the I-League then so be it. But we will return triumphant.”