In the early 1980s, when club football in the country was at the height of its popularity, two young students from the distant shores of Iran joined East Bengal to change Indian football forever. Majid Bishkar and Jamshid Nassiri were the first and one of the most successful foreigner duos to have played in India.
40 years later, yet another Iranian footballer, who created quite a hype last year within India, will reportedly join the Red and Golds on a 2-year-deal. Omid Singh, a 27-year-old winger who plays for Naft Masjed Soleyman FC in the Persian Gulf Pro League, was born in Iran to an Indian father.
Last year, around the time of the Intercontinental Cup, he had created quite a storm in the Indian media when he said he was willing to give up his Iranian passport to play for the Indian national team. India coach Igor Stimac had also reportedly shown a keen interest in Omid.
THIS IS HUGE! Iranian star Omid Singh is all set to sign a 2-year contract with East Bengal. Does this mean the Kolkata giants will play in ISL next year? 🔥🇮🇷😮 #IndianFootball #HeroISL pic.twitter.com/sG9xNF0Bsj
— Superpower Football (@SuperpowerFb) April 5, 2020
His imminent arrival means a lot for East Bengal, and more importantly, for their fans. The 2019-20 I-League season, which was cut short due to the looming threat of the deadly coronavirus, was not a particularly memorable one for the century-old club. Despite bringing in a foreign coach, star players, they were unable to challenge Mohun Bagan for the title.
Then, to make matters worse, Mohun Bagan and RPSG-owned ATK FC, two of their most fierce rivals joined forces and announced that they will play as a single entity next season in the Indian Super League (ISL). East Bengal have eyed an entry to the ISL, recently established as India’s premier football division, for some time now. But they are yet to figure out a way, something that has irked the fans a lot.
At this time, Omid’s signing gives the fans hope. Because, a signing as big as that could be an indicator for much bigger things to come.
When Majid and Jamshid arrived, they turned around a below-par East Bengal team that was somewhat declining through the late 1970s. They revived the team, scoring goals for fun, under the watchful eyes of PK Banerjee. The duo paved the way for footballers from outside to come to India and ply their trade.
Omid, however, despite all the hype, is not known for a lot of scoring, or assisting for that matter. In fact, in 67 Persian Gulf Pro League matches, he has only scored five goals and assisted four times, although he did come off the bench more often than he started. But his strength lies in his dribbling abilities.
Primarily a left winger, who can also play down the right and is adept with both feet, Omid loves to cut in and take shy at goal. And if he is able to do that with guile in Iran’s top league, imagine what he could do in Indian football.
And then, there’s the prospect of him pairing up alongside Sunil Chhetri in the national team colours, if he does give up his Iranian passport and if Stimac is impressed enough.
Undoubtedly, the Indo-Iranian will add a fresh dimension to East Bengal’s attack, something which is much needed, and maybe to Indian national team as well. Whether he can revolutionise Indian football and create his own cult here like Majid Bishkar or Jamshid Nassiri did, only time will tell.