The saga of East Bengal and their desperate attempts at featuring in the country’s top flight, the Indian Super League (ISL), this season might be nearing its end and fans will not like where it’s headed.
10 football clubs, including the newly formed ATK Mohun Bagan FC, submitted their kits (home, away and alternate) on Monday as per the pre-specified deadline. However, according to our sources, East Bengal did not send any jersey design, thereby missing the deadline.
After weeks of to and fro, East Bengal fans had started to give up hopes of playing in the ISL 2020-21. The club seemed to be botching opportunities to get investors, largely due to their unwillingness to give up majority shares. Singapore-based industrialist Prasun Mukherjee had apparently backed out citing uncertainty and lack of clarity.
Still, until Monday, August 10, some of the die-hard fans of the centenary club were clinging on to that last bit of hope. After all, Bengali media had claimed that East Bengal would be sending the designs of their three kits to Football Sports Development Ltd. (FSDL), ISL’s governing body, along with the 10 ISL clubs. It was reported that talks with a new investor are in the final stages and that FSDL would be willing to accommodate the Kolkata giants if they were to comply with all the deadlines.
East Bengal, in a social media post, themselves had added fuel to the rumours when they asked fans to send in concept jersey designs. On top of that, a recent cryptic tweet by reputed sports journalist Boria Majumder, which was later deleted, resulted in more speculation.
Then, executive member Debabrata Sarkar (Nitu da) told Indian Express digital that all hopes are not lost, and that he is ‘80% confident’ that the club will play in the ISL this year only.
But the thing is, the FSDL have already been planning for a 10-team league. The ISL 2020-21, in all probability, will be held behind closed doors in Goa. In a meeting with the 10 clubs a week back, the organising committee laid out the plans to ensure minimal health risks. The 10 teams would be divided into three groups (4 teams in Group A, 3 each in the other two), clubs in each group would share a stadium.
The tournament will start around the 3rd week of November and will go on until March. To add a new team would mean more number of matches which would certainly have an effect on the timeline planned by the FSDL. Bear in mind that the ISL can’t stretch beyond March because the cricket season (read, Indian Premier League) starts around that time.