In what promises to be a thrilling encounter against one of the traditional heavyweights of the I League, the Islanders square off against Kolkata side Kingfisher East Bengal FC in the pre-quarterfinal of the inaugural edition of the Hero Super Cup. Here’s a closer look at Khalid Jamil’s East Bengal and how they come into today’s crucial encounter..
East Bengal’s maiden title win in 1942
The date is July 28, 1920. Jorabagan are scheduled to play the mighty Mohun Bagan in the Coochbehar Cup. Jorabagan named a line-up sans their mighty defender Sailesh Bose who was dropped for reasons unknown.
After a request from the Jorabagan vice-president Suresh Chandra Chaudhuri fell on the deaf ears of the club authorities, Chaudhuri cut all ties with Jorabagan. The result? He joined hands with Shri Tarit Bhusan Roy, Manmatha Nath Roy Chaudhuri, Bose, Ramesh Chandra Sen and Aurobinda Ghosh and formed a new football club. Thus, East Bengal was born on August 1, 1920.
After gaining affiliation with the Indian Football Association (IFA), the club went on to win the second division in 1924 and their maiden first division title in 1942. Over the next five and a half decades, East Bengal racked up plenty of silverware, winning the IFA Shield, Calcutta Football League, Durand Cup, Rovers Cup and the Federation Cup on multiple occasions.
In 1998, East Bengal joined hands with the United Breweries Group, renaming themselves to Kingfisher East Bengal and ushering into a new phase of the club’s history. The club won National Football League titles (now called the I League) thrice in four seasons, including back-to-back championships in 2002-03 and 2003-04. The club notched 4 Federation Cup titles (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012) and amassed 8 appearances in the AFC Cup including a semi-final run in the 2015 edition of the tournament.
Widely considered as one of the most successful Indian and Asian clubs with 3 NFL titles, 8 Federation Cups, 39 Calcutta Football Leagues, 28 IFA Shields, 16 Durand Cups and 10 Rovers Cups, East Bengal teams over the years have played under some of the biggest coaches in recent times like Subhash Bhowmick, Armando Colaco, Trevor Morgan, Eelco Schattorie among others. The current squad, led by I League winning coach Khalid Jamil, mounted a serious title challenge in the recently concluded domestic campaign and will be a force to reckon in the Hero Super Cup.
2017-18 Season Summary
After wrapping up a record 39th Calcutta Football League title in September, East Bengal continued their pre-season preparations under Khalid Jamil with friendlies against Bengaluru FC (1-1 1-3), FC Pune City (1-2), FC Goa (2-1) and Jamshedpur FC (3-1).
They kicked off their I League campaign with a draw against defending champions Aizawl FC (2-2) and a 1-0 defeat in the Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan, courtesy a goal from Bagan defender Eze Kingsley. Their season looked to kick off after wins against Shillong Lajong (5-1), Churchill Brothers (3-2), Chennai City FC (2-1), Gokulam Kerala FC (1-0) and a 1-1 draw against NEROCA FC, ending 2017 on the top of the table.
Riddled with injuries, inconsistent results and changes in the squad, the following two months did not help East Bengal’s title push. While they started 2018 with a win against Indian Arrows (2-0) draws against Churchill Brothers (1-1) and Aizawl FC (0-0) dented their chances. East Bengal faced yet another defeat in the second Kolkata Derby of the season, courtesy goals from Akram Moghrabi and Dicka giving Mohun Bagan the bragging rights.
Over these two months, East Bengal would release the injured Willis Plaza, Charles and Armand Bazie and replace them with Nigerian striker Dudu (his second stint with the club), Liberian midfielder Ansumana Kromah – who was released by rivals Bagan in the same window – and Ugandan midfielder Khalid Aucho.
With a 2-2 draw against Minerva Punjab, East Bengal were seemingly out of the title race. While crucial 1-0 wins against Indian Arrows and Minerva Punjab brought them back in the reckoning, a 2-1 loss against Gokulam Kerala would undo the effort.
Inconsistency had become the theme for Khalid Jamil’s side. With three games to go and three wins guaranteeing the title for East Bengal (thanks to the head-to-head tie breaking rule), they ran riot with a 7-1 win against Chennai City FC. However, they slipped up yet again, this time in the penultimate fixture of the season against Shillong Lajong, drawing 2-2.
East Bengal entered the final weekend of the I League in a four-way title decider final round and faced fellow title hopefuls NEROCA FC but could only muster a draw, allowing Minerva Punjab to clinch their maiden I League title. East Bengal would finish only 4th in the table, extending their league drought for 14 years.
Players To Watch Out
Considered as one of the emerging full-backs of the new generation of Indian footballers, 22 year old Lalramchullova gained fame for his solid defensive work and his marauding runs on the right wing. An I League champion with Aizawl FC, Chullova was one of four players to move to East Bengal with coach Khalid Jamil and has notched up impressive performances with the Red and Gold of East Bengal.
Having played for former I League side ONGC, having captained arch rivals Mohun Bagan and having featured for Indian Super League side NorthEast United FC, Japanese Katsumi Yusa made the switch to East Bengal after four seasons with the Mariners. A proven attacking threat through the middle and out wide, Yusa has scored six goals this season and is one of Jamil’s key assets and a certain threat to any opposition.
There is one of the few names Mumbai City FC faithful would definitely remember from their short history – Dudu. Except only that it would be for the goals he scored in opposition colours in the Indian Super League. The Nigerian striker scored a brace against the Islanders in the opening season, in FC Pune City colours and a hat-trick in the second season with FC Goa. He’s notched up 8 goals this season for East Bengal despite his late arrival and will look to be a thorn in the sides of the Mumbai City defence.