The Inextinguishable Flame of East Bengal | Know Your Opponent ft. East Bengal FC

The Red of the Blood, The Gold of the Jewel, and The Inextinguishable Flame of East Bengal


“In 1997, the best Mohun Bagan-East Bengal derby till now, that one would be my personal favourite. Amal Dutta was their coach, P.K Banerjee was the coach of East Bengal, Baichung Bhutia scored a hat trick, and Nazimal Haque scored a goal. 4-1, we defeated Mohun Bagan! One lakh thirty (thousand) people had come that day, like the entire stadium, full! Fully packed, everyone is on their feet, no seating! ... Two to three days prior to a derby, I go to the temple and pray for the victory, and on matchday, I don’t eat anything.”

These are the words of Dipak Swami, who joined East Bengal as a Groundskeeper back in 1985, in a hearty conversation to the ISL YT channel. With folded hands and glistening eyes, Dipak’s colleague Ramchandra Dhar exerted “This club is my temple, this club, is my temple. This club has brought me up, made me a man.” It is this temple which these two and the other ground staff have maintained this storied Maidan grass to the utmost standards, with a religious devotion, for more than three decades.

Whenever one sees someone so deeply associated with the grand old clubs of the Maidan open up about this love of their life, you just cannot move your eyes from their faces. A warm blush on the cheeks, a subtle smile of pride, the wrinkles arising from decades of mirth and sorrow, the white hairs, the fidgety legs, the cracking of the finger joints, the jovial expression of the inner child who maybe still aspires to be a part of the playing eleven of their beloved club which transcends the barriers of age, gender, caste and class.

The story of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have their own origins, and one which divides the 100 million citizens of West Bengal, but a common part of this lore is the one deeply ingrained in the philosophy of the proud Bengali of the 20th Century, the one who dares to speak against the powerful lord, the one who has no fear demanding their right, the one who stands with someone facing injustice, the Protestor, the Thinker, the Intellectual, and the Nationalist. 

. . . 

Origin and Initial Years (1920-47)

The formation and rise of the East Bengal Club in 1920 comes from the culmination of events of unjust decisions and atrocities, which start from as early as 1905, when Lord Clive decided to divide Bengal on religious grounds, as the Western of Bengal had a Hindu majority while the Eastern had more Muslims. While due to intense protests which brought forward the Bengali unity eventually forced the British to assimilated East Bengal into the Bengal Presidency, the utter confusion and varied separatist ideologies arising out of that led to extremist factions within the Congress as well the Muslim-aligned parties, and eventually to the uncanny resemblance of the haphazardly drawn Radcliffe line which carved out East Pakistan on entirely religious grounds in 1947.

It was a high voltage semi-final clash between Jora Bagan and Mohun Bagan. When Jora Bagan surprisingly decided not to field two regular high performers Sailesh Basu and Nosha Sen, Club President Suresh Chandra Chowdhury asked for an explanation which didn’t convince him. He believed the exclusion was related to the “East” Bengali origin of these two players.

Suresh Chandra Chowdhury

Back then, the East Bengali settlers in Kolkata, primarily comprising of Zamindars (land tax collector) of the Eastern Bengal regions (who stayed in Kolkata for ease of administration) and their servants had their distinctive accents and a lifestyle which wasn’t well accepted by a certain section of the local Kolkata Bengalis, thus there were incidents of discrimination and a sub-conscious attitude of looking down upon the East Bengalis.

Thus, infuriated and agitated by the that incident, Suresh Chandra Chowdhury with the Maharaja of Santosh, Sarada Ranjan Roy, Sailesh Bose, Ramesh Chandra Sen and Aurobindo Ghosh laid the foundations for a club that would serve as a voice for the East Bengalis who were treated differently, an institute where these settlers could interact with their people and form a support group of sorts through the game of football, which by then due to the success of Mohun Bagan among other clubs had gained much popularity among the Bengalis.

East Bengal had to start out from the second division of the Calcutta Football League and got promotion after four long years. They had assembled an impressive team, and were showing promise to challenge the established big names of Aryans and Mohun Bagan, thus these two clubs, coupled with the ingrained dissatisfaction with the East Bengalian identity, tried to prevent East Bengal’s entry into the CFL 1st division, but failed in doing so. 

The IFA, operated by the British, would only allow two native clubs in the first division, which East Bengal protested and made their way into the first division, thus also abolishing the two native club only rule. Thus, this approach of MB and Aryaans siding with the oppressive British instead of standing up for the deserved promotion of another ‘native’ club, gave an added nudge to the already motivated East Bengal who wanted to put forward the message that their ‘side’ of Bengalis, the ‘Bangaals’ were no less compared to the ‘Ghotis’ (Western, especially Kolkatan Bengalis) not only in football, but in all aspects, professions and walks of life. 

Newspaper Report on the first ever Official Kolkata Derby

The first ever official derby in the CFL on May 25, 1925 was a battle for the restoration of dignity, respect and an appeal for equality for the East Bengalis, a cultural aspect which forms the underlying basis for every derby played henceforth played till date. And on that date, it was none other than East Bengal who announced their arrival as another powerhouse by winning 1-0 over Mohun Bagan courtesy of a goal by Nepal Chakraborty.

However, this fairytale start couldn’t be sustained as the team faced a multitude of difficult issues on and off the field, most important of them being the financing, and they were relegated to the CFL Second Division in 1928. A popular form of protest against the continued discrimination faced from the IFA and other clubs by the East Bengal faithful was the fans holding flares on the stands during matches and in rallies, from where originated their iconic logo featuring the Mashal and eventually the nickname the ‘Torchbearers’.

In 1931, under the cunning guidance of Surya Chakroborty and Mani Talukdar, the team got back to the first division, improved it’s playing style, started recruiting players from all around the country and slowly but surely build a stable team which would win over Mohun Bagan 4-0 in the CFL in 1936, marking the record highest ever margin in favour of a team in the derby which stood for nearly three decades. Six years later, East Bengal won their fist ever CFL title, the IFA Shield a year after and then the famous CFL and IFA Shield Double in 1945, and the CFL, Shield and Rovers Cup Triple in 1949.

Two crucial players in the triumphs of the early 40s were Paritosh Chakraborty and the first ever foreign National to play for an Indian club, Fred Pugsley. Paritosh was an able defender. He was rated highly by none other than Rabindranath Thakur (Tagore), who had gifted Paritosh a copy of the Gitanjali. Quite interestingly, the day Rabindranath’s Nobel Prize got stolen, it was the same day Paritosh lost his received copy of the Gitanjali too!

East Bengal with the Double in 1945 (Courtesy: EB Club Archives)

Fred Pugsley had escaped from Burma when the Japanese invaded his hometown. He walked all the way to Kolkata barefoot and requested East Bengal to sign him. However, officials were concerned of his health as Fred was famished from his arduous journey, reported to be of 500 kilometers through dense forests and treacherous mountains, and he would end up vomiting mid match and had to be substituted. However, Fred never gave up, East Bengal continued their trust, and he eventually happened to score the winning goal against Mohun Bagan in the 1945 IFA Shield semi-final.

. . .

Partition of India, J.C. Guha and Foreign Tours (1947-’70)

In 1947, came the dreaded Partition of India. A year prior, the Direct Action Day Massacre led to four thousand deaths in Kolkata. Eastern Bengal, subsequently East Pakistan post partition had become a hostile place for Hindus due to religious tensions arising out of the Britishers’ Divide-and-Rule Policy being at an all time high, and thus the Partition of India oversaw more than 2 million Bengali Hindus moving from East Pakistan to India, a significant portion of which settled in Kolkata.

Resources were already scarce after the British loot, thus when the natives saw even more Bengalis competing for jobs and university entrance tests and housing and the little welfare initiatives, sympathy took a backseat and the negative perception of a large section of natives towards the immigrants further worsened. Thus, the East Bengal football club, a name which couldn’t have less resonated with the identity of this greatest ever wave of immigrants became a beacon of their hope in the days of dejection, depression and despair. East Bengal’s following had now turned into fanaticism.

East Bengal’s smart integration of players from all over India eventually led them to form a lethal attacking combination of Right Winger P. Venkatesh, inside-right Appa Rao, left-winger P.B. Saleh, Inside-left Ahmed Khan and centre-forward K.P. Dhanraj who became known as the ‘Pancha Pandavas’ helped them achieve the 1949 Triple. 

East Bengal players line up against Torpedo Dynamos in Moscow, 1953. (Courtesy: EB Club Archives)

At the same time, under the leadership of Jyotish Chandra Guha, the team embarked on a World Tour where they won over the Chinese Olympic Team 2-0, 1-0 over Swedish club Gothenburg and reached the semi-finals of an invitational tournament in Romania, losing out to the host team. They also sensationally held Moscow based club Torpedo Dynamos 3-3. The local Russian spectators were equally loud in congratulation when the barefoot Indian team scored a goal. Their successes even got recognised by the Football Association, England who nominated them as the best club of Asia.

J.C Guha himself travelled throughout the country in search of talents and was the Club Secretary across two stints, from ’45-’59 and ’65-’70. He spent every last bit from his family business to ensure that the players got proper nutrition and training, and would even personally nurse a player if he fell sick or got injured. They won the CFL in ’52 and ’61, and the Durand in ’52 and ’56, winning over Syed Abdul Rahim’s mighty Hyderabad Police in both occasions and then as joint winners in 1960 with Mohun Bagan, thus doing the coveted Delhi Double (Durand + DCM trophy) for the second time after ’52.

Just when performances started to dwindle in the early 60s, J.C. Guha returned for his second stint and helped stable the affairs, leading to the team championing the CFL in ’66, Rovers Cup in 67’ and 69’ and the Durand in ’67 and eventually another Shield Durand double in 1970. It was the year of the attacking quartet of Swapan Sengupta, Ashok Chatterjee, Mohammed Habib and Shyam Thapa to trounce one club after another, making that one of East Bengal’s strongest ever teams. In the Shield Final, they had won over a very able Iranian Club Pas Tehran 1-0. Three years later, they won over North Korean Clubs in the Shield and DCM finals.

. . .

P.K. Banerjee, Dipak Das and Continued Successes (1970-2000)

As if P.K. Banerjee hadn’t already become a legend of Indian Football from his playing career, his marvellous achievements as a coach raised his status to a demigod. Pradip Kumar was the P.K. of P.K.-Chuni-Balaram, India’s greatest ever attacking combination, and one of the world’s best at the time. Banerjee had scored famous goals against formidable opponents, against France in 1960 Rome Olympics (1-1 at FT) and a brace against Thailand in the ’62 Asian Games which they eventually won. He was named Indian Footballer of the 20th century by FIFA, and was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, the highest honour bestowed by the global footballing body, in 2004.

East Bengal of the 70s (Courtesy: EB Club Archives)

A crucial factor in his prowess as a coach was his exposure to European clubs and National Teams during his trips across the globe, where he met with players like Eusebio, Michel Platini and John Cruyff and learnt from world-class coaches so as to give the best training possible to Indian footballers. Also his famous psychological tactics and his renowned ‘vocal tonic’ (pep talk) boosted his players to give their anything and everything on the pitch. He made his players fall in love with the crests the donned on their chest, be at East Bengal, Mohun Bagan or the Indian National Team.

In an interview to Zee 24 Ghanta in 2019, a year prior to his passing, P.K. da might have lost the firmness of his speech, but his achievements and exploits which remain evergreen, cemented forever in the hearts of every Indian Football enthusiast. “Shyam Thapa and Subhash Bhowmick were very difficult players to manage. Whenever one wasn’t performing well on the pitch, I would ask a player on the bench to start running on the sideline. When they used to see that, they would step up their game. So, these psychological tactics to keep the big names in check were necessary, but at the end of the day I used to adore them, love them a lot,” Banerjee reminisced in the interview.

Reflecting on the current proceedings of the current National Team, he wasn’t very hopeful, and blamed clubs preferring foreign players in key roles is limiting the development of Indian players, which is leading to the National Team faltering in the big stages. 

In another interview to News Time, P.K. Banerjee opened up on the famous 4-1 drubbing of Mohun Bagan in the 1997 Federation Cup semi-final. “Before the game, there were a lot of abuses hurled from their side (Banerjee is refereeing to Amol Dutta whom he shared a fierce rivalry with, comparable to that of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger). Baichung was called Chung Chung, a remark directed at Omollo was “we will make an omelette of him”, and “We will cut Soso like a Cucumber (Shosha in Bangla)” and what not.” 

“Then my fans in anger were pleading me to say some things too in retaliation. I said, the game isn’t played with the mouth, it is pointless, the game is played on the field. Be patient. I told Baichung that you need to keep your cool in front of the goal. This is a battle with will never die, you have to help the team in all aspects. You cannot just stand in front of the goal; you have to drop down and help the defenders too. Don’t let them have the ball, when they get possession, press them hard to recover the ball. Today we don’t have the time to enjoy and fool around, it’s a war!”


Starting lineup of the famous 1997 ‘Diamond’ Derby, named due to P.K. Banerjee’ tactics dominating over Amal Dutta’s diamond midfield system (Courtesy: Nazimul Hoque)

It is this man management prowess of the great P.K. Banerjee, coupled by his versatile tactics which adapt to balance the attack and defense depending on the opponent and any situation of a match which made him etch his name among the greatest coaches in Indian football, and arguably the great ever Indian footballing influence when considering his playing and coaching career together. Taking inspiration from the famous Italian tactic of Catenaccio, East Bengal played a disciplined and effective game to win 4-1 over Bagan in front of 1,30,000 spectators at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Salt Lake. 

It was not Banerjee’s biggest victory over Dutta’s Bagan. In the IFA Shield Final in 1975, East Bengal trounced Mohun Bagan 5-0. When P.K. Banerjee left EB after his final stint with the club, he had helped them achieve 7 CFLs, 5 IFA Shields, 4 Rovers Cups, 3 DCM Trophies, 2 Durand Cups, 2 Bordoloi Trophies, 2 Federation Cups, an All-Airlines Gold Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup which was the qualifier for the 1985-86 Asian Club Championship where they couldn’t make it past the group stage. Some of the other biggest names to have played from 1970 to 1999 were Subhash Bhowmick, Krishanu Dey, Majid Bishkar, Jamshid Nassiri and Chima Okorie among countless other personas.

A certain ‘modernisation’ was brought in by Dipak Das in 1984 when he converted the football team into a private limited company and made the contractual and technical details lot more professional, meanwhile also bringing in local sponsorships from companies like Khadims. Eventually, the club got renamed as Kingfisher East Bengal Club in 1998 when Dipak Das allowed Vijay Mallya's United Breweries Group to buy 50% of the club’s shares.

. . .

Hits and Misses of the 21st Century (2000-2020)

The turn of the century brought one of East Bengal’s most important laurel, the National Football League, the then top flight of Indian Domestic Football. On the last matchday, East Bengal were on 43 points, while Mohun Bagan were on 42. Bagan won their final match, and East Bengal had to face a relegation threatened side JCT who gave their last calorie of energy to ensure their safety, but the Torchbearers managed to score two goals and win their first ever domestic league title.

East Bengal with the 2000 IFA Shield (Courtesy: The Telegraph India)

In fact, they went on to win the NFL again in the 2002-03 and the 03/04 seasons, under the leadership of Subhash Bhowmick. That 02/03 season happened to bring a quintuple of trophies to the club viz. the NFL, CFL, IFA Shield, Durand and Independence Cup. 

“It was a dream coach Bhowmick saw and made us believe in. He prepared us very well for the tournament, ensuring the kind of facilities most clubs couldn't even think of back then. We stayed in a five-star hotel in Kolkata for a month during the camp before the tournament. Coach was very attentive towards everything we did. Sasthi (Duley) was one player who needed generous helpings of rice for lunch. He used to plead with the coach, "Jab tak aap mujhe chawal nahi khilaoge, main khel nahi paunga (Until you allow me to have rice I won't be able to play)," Deepak Mandal, former EB player, to ESPN

On their very first match of the 2003 ASEAN Club Championship, which the then coach Subhash Bhowmick had helped East Bengal enter through multiple requests and a recommendation through Stephen Constantine, the team lost against BEC Tero Sasana 1-0, who were arguably the strongest club in the tournament. However, there was a miracle waiting to happen.

“Coach Bhowmick deserves a major share of the credit for our win: Just the way he kept us going and told us to believe in ourselves, monitoring everything that we did, even the food on our plate, eventually paid off. He used to pass by each player’s table to see what they were eating, particularly on the eve and the day of the match. For instance, there weren’t supposed to be more than three pieces of chicken on each player’s plate. To get away, some players used to bury chicken pieces under the rice on their plate,” Alvito D’Cunha, former EB Player, to ESPN.

In their next group stage game, East Bengal ran riot over Filipino club Negros Occidental FC 6-0, followed by two hard fought battles against Indonesian clubs Persita and Petrokimia Putra in the Quarters and Semis respectively, East Bengal had found themselves in the final, that too against NEC Tero Sasana. However, Baichung Bhutia, Alvito and Deepak Mandal took the revenge as they each scored a goal, and East Bengal were ASEAN Club Championship winners!

East Bengal with the LG Cup (Courtesy: Getty)

East Bengal ruled over the Calcutta Football League in the 21st century, not winning only in the years 2001, ’05, ’07, ’08 and ’09 till 2018, after which the League slowly lost prominence, first team players weren’t much involved, and is now mostly won by Mohammedan. They won the Durand in ’02 and ’04, the latter by defeating Mohun Bagan in the final courtesy of two long rangers by midfielder Chandan Das and won the 2009/10, 2010 and editions of the Federation Cup.

The 2012 Federation Cup was won in extra time courtesy of two brilliant assists by Lalrindika Ralte against Dempo, who had scored the winning goal against  Churchill a match prior in the Semis. The trophy which coincided with the birthday of their then coach Trevor Morgan happened to become a curse of sorts, as East Bengal would have to wait twelve long years to get the taste of some major domestic silverware.

The decline came from a multitude of factors. East Bengal slowly started to become overly reliant on one or two players, mostly their star strikers, be it Bhutia, Do Dong Hyun, Cristiano Junior, Ranti Martins or Dudu Omagbemi. It did help them win knock out based tournaments, but in a League season, it was obvious that their solitary talisman couldn’t deliver every game, thus the club had to lose out on the elusive I-League even at handshaking distance quite a few times. The club officials found themselves associated to certain scandals which further led to reduced morale and trust.

EB players with the 2012 Federation Cup (Courtesy: India TV)

The continuity of coaches became a significant issue too. The pressure from the fans made the club officials desperate, confused, and took baffling decisions of player and coach changes which were not received well not only by their faithful but also the players themselves as it would totally break the little chemistry created. There were multiple disagreements between club officials an coaches when it came to retainment and new signings. The club struggled with a vision of patience; the playing style lacked a philosophy. 

There were dressing room fall outs, most famous of them being that of Subrata Bhattacharya after he helped EB win the Federation Cup. There were Bengali coaches, coaches from other parts of India such as Armando Colaco and Khalid Jamil, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, Spain and England, but none could help them clinch the Premiership. For some context, they had 15 coach changes between 94/95 and 12/13, and 15 in the next 10 seasons.

. . .

The ISL Era (2020-)

In 2018, Business Services company Quess Corp. bought 70% stakes in the club, and the now historic partnership with Kingfisher ended after two decades. However, the new corporate partner could hardly address the underlying problems. Their contract had a clause that if East Bengal couldn’t enter the ISL through whatever means in the next three years, they would step away, and when they saw that development becoming unlikely, they abandoned the club.

However, East Bengal were adamant about getting into the ISL, as soon enough that would become the top flight of Indian Football with which came the shifting of the Asian competition slot too. East Bengal, after all, had made a record eight appearances, between 2004 and 2015, in the AFC Cup, and had narrowly missed out on a final spot after they were knocked out by Kuwait SC in the Semis of the 2013 edition.

East Bengal’s first ISL season (Courtesy: Goal)

If East Bengal couldn’t make it to the ISL, even the continuance of the sacred derby was in question now. Relief, however came in form of an intervention by the West Bengal Chief Minister who helped the team procure a 76% share takeover by Shree Cements and a new company named ‘Shree Cement Foundation’ was registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. However, throughout the upcoming year, the legacy club officials would engage in multiple sour episodes with the allegedly uncooperative investors, thus SC East Bengal would become Emami East Bengal at the beginning of the 22/23 season after yet another investor procurement by the state CM.

All this while, due to these multiple fallouts, uncertainty and misunderstandings, the football took a backseat and the merciless stronger ISL opposition couldn’t be handled by the last minute singings and sub-par coaches who had little to no say when it came to recruitment. Even though they couldn’t lift the I League, barring the exception of the seasons 07/08 to 09/10, East Bengal always found themselves within the top four, with five 2nd place finishes, three 3rd place finishes and two 4th place finishes. 

But ISL happened to be a different ball game. After haphazard team building with unconvincing investment, East Bengal were punished to a 9th, 11th and 9th spot out of the 11 team ISL in their first three seasons. In these 3 years, there were seven names in the head coach position. While it was all gloomy in 20/21 and 21/22, there was some improvement in signings quality and performance last season under former Indian National Team coach Stephen Constantine.

EB players celebrate a goal in the 20/21 season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Probably by now everyone associated with East Bengal finally decided this embarrassment couldn’t continue. At the end of last season, it became the 4th season where East Bengal couldn’t win over their derby rivals (had lost all but one which was a 0-0 draw). Like nearly every season, there was a complete overhaul of the squad, but this time, there were a few promising ones.

Able goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill and defenders Nishu Kumar and Harmanjot Khabra were brought from Kerala Blasters while young defender Lalchungnunga was welcomed from Sreenidi Deccan. Mumbai City FC stalwart Mandar Rao Desai, experienced Hyderabad FC players Borja Herera and Siverio Toro, Odisha FC stars Nandhakumar Sekar and Saul Crespo among other budding youngsters.

However, as the season would unfold, their most important signing would turn out to be their new head coach, Carles Cuadrat, who wasn’t even East Bengal’s first choice coach. They wanted to bring Sergio Lobera out of a City Group Club Sichuan Jiuniu but there were multiple hindrances to terminate his City Group contract. Even after completing the necessary technicalities, there were reportedly some differences during negotiations, and quite suddenly Odisha FC came in with a favourable offer and took away Lobera, while East Bengal then decided to welcome season Catalan coach Carles Cuadrat, who already had once won the ISL with Bengaluru back in 2019.

While East Bengal, after NEUFC vs JFC on 31st Jan, sit 8th on the table, but they are only 1 and 2 points behind and have 2 and 3 games in hand compared to the teams one and two spots above them respectively. Although they have only 3 defeats registered in the 10 games played in the first half, they have drawn 5 of those and won only two, courtesy of Cuadrat’s disciplined mid-block. However, creating and finishing chances from open play as always been an issue for Cuadrat, and he is famously known for his ingenuous and cheeky set piece routines from which his Bengaluru FC team used to score most of their goals from.

EB faithful celebrate the Super Cup (Courtesy: East Bengal FC Media)

After a mediocre but promising performance in the first half, the ISL got a one month break for the AFC Asian Cup, where the top National players had to be left out for duty, while the clubs themselves would compete in the Kalinga Super Cup. Quite obviously, there was an advantage for the teams whose Indian players were not called up, and East Bengal FC found themselves against Odisha FC in the Super Cup final.

In the group, East Bengal had quite a struggle against effectively the Hyderabad FC reserve team (who have now become the main team as their best players have left due to non-payment of salaries) and I League club Sreenidi, but they won 3-1 over Mohun Bagan who were totally clueless after their head coach got sacked and key Indian players were at the Asian Cup.

It was a resolute determined East Bengal in the final. After going down, they came back to lead late into the game, but gave away a penalty just when the final whistle was about to be blown and the game went to extra time, where captain Cleiton Silva intercepted a loose pass from the opposition GK, and East Bengal had a major trophy after twelve long years. More than that, this gives them a slot in the Asian Champions League 2 qualifiers, on winning which they will find themselves into the Asian 2nd tier club competition after a long absence.

Even though being born and brought up in Barcelona, spending his youth at La Masia and having 11 appearances with Barcelona C, coach Cuadrat not some staunch possession heavy tiki taka believer. He understands that such intricate football is difficult if not impossible to bring out of the quality of his players, thus he resorts to simple football and adding certain bits of randomness, and most importantly, utilising his set pieces to the best.

EB off the ball shape (Courtesy: ISL on JioCinema)

Off the ball, it is quite an interesting 4-4-2 setup. Generally the two up front are strikers, as was the case last season, but this time it’s Bengali midfielder Souvik Chakraborty along with forward Cleiton. On the wings, there’s Naorem Mahesh and Nandhakumar Sekar who are instructed to track back and chase down whoever is running down the wings. The CM duo formed out of Jose Pardo, Borja Herera (left for FCG in January window) or Saul Crespo consists of a double pivot, where one is a fixed DM (Pardo) while the other is a box to box (Saul). The defense features the CB duo of Hijazi Meher and Lalchungnunga, and full backs Nishu Kumar and Mandar Rao Desai.

Souvik Chakraborty starts off as the 2 in the 4-4-2 while defending, but his incredible stamina and work ethic is utilised to pounce upon the opposition deep lying playmaker or the advancing ball confident defender, or even the inverting RB sometimes, while Cleiton positions himself to block a passing lanes. Saul Crespo occasionally makes aggressive runs to win the ball when the ball is in the opposition half.

Cleiton Silva is a complete forward and doesn’t hesitate to drop down to help in build up which also sometimes brings a defender out of position creating space for wingers Nandha and Norem to run into space. In possession, there are a variety of tactics from fast flank switches, long balls to flanks if the opposition is in a high line, and also overloads so once possession is won back, most of the times by Souvik or the CMs, then a threatening attack is launched through some quick passes and incredible dribbling skills of Nandha or Naorem. 

While this helps create an incredible defense, the presence of two deep lying CMs and one advanced destroyer who is not so good on the ball takes away a flair of creativity, which is exactly what Carles Cuadrat wants to solve by bringing in Victor Vasquez, who isn’t expected to debut next match, but his addition will help solve the attacking issues in the matches after.

EB Training Session (Courtesy: East Bengal FC Media)


With the Super Cup victory, East Bengal seem to have finally adjusted to the wrath of their new competition. This grand old club serves as a cultural and emotional cornerstone in Indian football. The rich history, marked by iconic victories and passionate rivalries, has helped create a sense of identity and belonging among its supporters. For them, East Bengal is not just a football club; it's a symbol of resilience, unity, and a source of pride that transcends the boundaries of the sport.

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