East Bengal officially enters ISL for 2020/21 season

East Bengal has officially been included in the upcoming Indian Super League (ISL) 2020/21 season, organisers Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) announced on Sunday.

The Red and Golds had facilitated their entry process earlier this month after Kolkata-based cement giants, Shree Cement Limited, acquired majority stakes in the club.

East Bengal will now become the 11th team to participate in the ISL which started off as an eight-team competition back in 2014. Their arch-rivals, Mohun Bagan, merged with ISL champions ATK earlier in the year.

Nita Ambani, the chairperson of FSDL, believes that the inclusion of both the Kolkata giants in the cash-rich league is a monumental development for Indian football.

“It is such a happy and proud moment for ISL as we welcome East Bengal FC and their millions of fans into the League. The inclusion of both legacy clubs, i.e. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (now ATK Mohun Bagan) opens limitless possibilities for Indian football, especially for talent development in the state,” Ambani said.

“West Bengal has made an immense contribution to the growth of the beautiful game in India. ISL’s growing footprint in the state and across India, is yet another step towards our mission of building a competitive and robust football ecosystem in the country,” she added.

East Bengal’s turbulent ride for a new investor began after former investor Quess parted ways with the club at the end of last season’s I-League.

“This was made possible because of Mamata ji. If at all we have to give credit, it’s her,” Hari Mohan Bangur, owner and managing director of Shree Cement told PTI. “At the very beginning, she had made it clear (that East Bengal will play this year).”

The real challenge, however, will begin now on the field, as the club will have to finalise the squad. The coach is yet to be announced with the tournament less than three months away.

Bangur, however, was confident of making up for the lost time and said they would announce the coach and full squad by September 30.

“We have been quite late already in selecting the coach, foreign players, training, but we are still confident of doing a good job. We will make the announcement by September 30,” Bangur said.

“I know we have too little time, we are starting with a handicap. But still we will give a good fight. We are taking good players and a coach,” the owner of Shree Cement, which had an annual turnover of more than Rs 12,000 crore last year, said.

Asked about the name of the club, he said: “It’s such an old club, how can we dare to change the jersey colour or club’s name. We will just add one prefix. The Board will announce in due course.”

With the chief coach yet to be named, the squad is likely to head to Goa where they will train under assistant coach, Francisco Bruto Da Costa.

The seventh edition of the ISL is set to take place entirely behind-closed-doors across three venues in Goa and is expected to run from November 2020 to March 2021.

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