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In centenary year, past perfect, future tense for East Bengal

Jaydeep Basu

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East Bengal have launched their cenetenary celebrations with much fanfare.

New Delhi: As East Bengal Club step into their centenary year at the end of this month, memories flood back on the journey of the red and golden brigade, who enjoyed an inseparable role in shaping Indian football history.

It is often said “don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.” East Bengal’s voyage since 1920 is no different.

By conservative estimates, East Bengal have won more than 130 trophies till date. But the beginning was humble. Like it happens in any honest soccer system, in 1921, the Indian Football Association (IFA), West Bengal’s football governing body, inducted East Bengal in the second division of the Calcutta league.

In 1925, they were promoted to first division amid a flurry of activities that effectively changed the face of Calcutta football.

Make no mistake. It was done purely on merit. No participation fee changed hands. Yet, the story of East Bengal’s promotion and the backroom politics involved in it remains fascinating read. In British-ruled India, East Bengal fought gallantly to bring curtain down on racism in sporting arena.

The Calcutta Football League (CFL) first division remained strictly out of bound for Indian clubs even after Mohun Bagan’s historic IFA Shield triumph in 1911. The door was finally opened for locals in 1915, only partially.

For the next 10 years, Mohun Bagan and Aryans enjoyed the status of first division clubs. The rest were European civil and military sides.

In 1924, Cameron B and East Bengal finished on top in second division with 37 points. The British regimental side emerged champions because of better goal difference. But they couldn’t be promoted as their A side were already playing in the top division.

To add to it, South Wales Borderers withdrew their team from the senior division. Smelling the opportunity, East Bengal pressed claim. It kicked off one of Indian football’s biggest controversies in the pre-independence era.

Sir Manmathanath Roy Chowdhury was East Bengal’s president from 1925 to 1936.

East Bengal president then was Sir Manmathanath Roy Chowdhury, the Maharaja of Santosh, a highly influential “bhadralok” from society’s upper tier. Under his leadership, East Bengal submitted two demands in writing. One, removal of “racist law” on restriction of Indian clubs in first division. Two, promotion for East Bengal.

There were lobbying and counter-lobbying, articles in favour of and against it in leading dailies (The Statesman included), heated debates in IFA meetings. In April 1925, the league committee’s general body approved East Bengal’s promotion. A few days later, the same committee’s special general body shot down the previous decision.

East Bengal reacted sharply. They withdrew from the second division, too. Interestingly, while Indian clubs in the committee voted against East Bengal, European outfits stood behind them. The matter reached a flashpoint when all European clubs withdrew from the first division in protest, leaving only Mohun Bagan and Aryans in the fray.

Finally, in May 1925, the IFA relented. Heads rolled in the body; honorary secretary HE Medllycott, representing Customs, had to put down his papers. East Bengal were promoted. The racist law was scraped.

In a White dominated society, it was a bigger victory than winning the league or the IFA Shield.

Jump cut to 2019. On one hand, East Bengal are busy celebrating their centenary year. On the other, they are effectively back in the second division at the national level since I-League has been diluted.

In 1925, East Bengal were lucky. They had a parent body, which did not look down on its clubs with a hostile stare. More importantly, it believed in merit, not in money. Neo-racism was yet to be introduced.

In his famous poem “For the Fallen”, British poet Laurence Binyon spoke about those who died in the First World War. “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:/Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn/At the going down of the sun in the morning/We will remember them.”

While celebrating their hundred years of mighty presence in Indian football, East Bengal fans can recite the Binyon poem in memory of those never-say-die club officials in 1925. But can the present set of officials running the club match their predecessors?

Only time will tell.

East Bengal’s squad in 1924

Goalkeepers- M.Talukdar and D.Gupta
Backs- J.Sen, S.Sen, M.Dutta Roy, P.Chatterjee and S.Chatterjee
Halfbacks N.Dey, S.Nag, N.Gossain, S.Roy, D.Roy and Ohi
Forwards- H.Bose, M.Mullick, S.Mitra, J.Talukdar, N.Bose, Haran Saha,
N.Chakravarty, Guha Roy, R.Dutta, A.Bhowmick, M.Dutta, C.Bose, S.Sen,
S.Das and P.Bardhan
Captain- H.Bose.
East Bengal became member of the IFA’s governing body and also owned
their tent at the Maidan. East Bengal qualified for the First Division.

East Bengal’s squad in 1925

Goalkeepers- Purna Das and M.Talukdar
Backs- M.Dutta Roy,D.Guha,P.Chatterjee, P.Bose and Chaudhuri.
Halfbacks B.Sen,N.Gossain,Haran Saha,M.Das,D.Roy and S.Ganguli
Forwards- M.Dutta, M.Mullick, S.Mitra, H.Bose, J.Sarkar, J.Sen,
D.Banerjee, A.Mukherjee, S.Chakravarty, N.Chakravarty and P.Bardhan
Captain- M.Dutta

Squad information: eastbengalfootballclub.com

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Philippe Coutinho to join Bayern Munich on loan from Barcelona

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Philippe Coutinho.

Munich: Bayern Munich have secured the services of Brazil winger Philippe Coutinho on a season-long loan from FC Barcelona, pending a medical.

The 27-year-old winger will provide Niko Kovac with a further attacking outlet after the departures of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez this summer.

“I can confirm that I was in Barcelona with Hasan Salihamidzic on Wednesday and that we reached an agreement with both the club and the player,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told the Bayern club website. “We have been dealing with Coutinho for a while.”

After coming through the Vasco de Gama youth ranks, the highly rated Coutinho was snapped up by Inter Milan as a 16-year-old, although he had to wait until turning 18 in 2010 to move to Europe.

In 2013 he left for Liverpool, and his eye-catching performances on Merseyside earned him a big-money move to Barcelona in January 2018.

Coutinho has already lifted two La Liga titles, two Spanish Super Cups and one Copa del Rey with Barca, and helped Brazil triumph on home soil at this summer’s Copa America.

The Brazilian – who also has Portuguese nationality through his wife – becomes Bayern’s fifth summer signing, following the arrivals of Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard, Fiete Arp, Ivan Perisic.

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Thangboi Singto joins Delhi Dynamos as assistant coach

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Thangboi Singto has extensive knowledge about India's talent pool.

New Delhi: Delhi Dynamos FC announced the signing of Thangboi Singto as its assistant coach for the upcoming season here on Friday.

The former assistant coach and technical director of Kerala Blasters’ youth development wing, Singto was instrumental in shaping up Shillong Lajong FC, where he worked for four seasons.

The 45-year-old Manipuri is known for trusting and promoting young players, particularly from the North-east.

Following the development, Singto said “It gives me immense pleasure in joining Delhi Dynamos. The positive talks and plans for the club that transpired during meeting the director, CEO and Head Coach Josep Gombau convinced me that I can come here and contribute in improving the footballing aspects of the club.”

“One important factor is to further improve and help all the youth players in their overall growth and progression towards the first team set up,” the coach further added.

Head coach Josep Gombau also extended is welcoming to the coach and said, “We are so happy to have Singto with us. He has a lot of experience and knows the league very well. Welcome to the club.”

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Messi, Ronaldo and Van Dijk nominated for UEFA Player of the Year

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The Uefa awards will be decalred on August 29. Text & Image: @UEFA

Nyon: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Virgil van Dijk have been nominated for the 2018/19 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award.

The winner will be named – along with the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and UEFA Champions League positional award winners – during the group stage draw in Monaco on Thursday 29 August.

The UEFA Europa League Player of the Season will be announced the following day.

The three-man shortlist: Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
The top goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League and the European Golden Shoe winner picked up his tenth Liga title.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal)
The UEFA Nations League winner and top goalscorer at the finals also scooped his first Serie A title.

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands)
The final man of the match for the UEFA Champions League winners also reached the UEFA Nations League showpiece.

The rest of the top 10

4 Alisson Becker (Liverpool & Brazil) – 57 points
5 Sadio Mané (Liverpool & Senegal) – 51 points
6 Mohamed Salah (Liverpool & Egypt) – 49 points
7 Eden Hazard (Chelsea/Real Madrid & Belgium) – 38 points
8= Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax/Juventus & Netherlands) – 27 points
8= Frenkie de Jong (Ajax/Barcelona & Netherlands) – 27 points
10 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City & England) – 12 points

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