After a long-standing feud between investors Shree Cements and the club management, SC East Bengal finally made an entry to the 2021-22 ISL, after the intervention of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. With the tale similar to the previous season, is there a permanent solution on the cards?
Back against the wall, with the transfer deadline alarm ringing like a death knell, SC East Bengal was in shambles a few days ago. What made it even worse? The dire situation hardly reflected on the faces of the top officials and honchos, in spite of receiving an ultimatum from investors Shree Cements every now and then.
The case was crystal clear, the club management had to sign the final contract, or else the corporate body would cut-off the cash inflow for the following season. Meanwhile, the club deemed that the terms on the document differed from the initial pointers. SC East Bengal, however subconsciously believed there was a last resort to resolve the issue, as always.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the woman whose words are treated as proverbs by millions, did hardly break a sweat to make both the parties join hands. It was disheartening to witness the club-investor ruckus ending on a public forum, televised on local channels, in the state government headquarters, on an evening where the issue was not even the side-kick to the main event. Well, the inference – SC East Bengal will play in the ISL. The club secretary evidently swept away the credit, stating he had already assured the club of a place in the cash-rich league.
Superficially, it’s SC East Bengal’s second season in the ISL, but at what cost? Is the century-old club, which is draped with legacy and trophies, only destined to participate in the top-tier league with the aid of a last-minute entry?
Well, by the time already wasted on the investor-club issue, the team-building process for the following season slowly started to gain prominence. With most of the players released, the REAL hurdle was visible. First and second-string Indian players were already hired elsewhere, leaving them with little option, while the financial constraints won’t allow them to dig deep into their pockets for tried and tested overseas players.
For the second consecutive time, the red and gold brigade had to be content with the services of leftovers, with most players on loan. If the first season was any sort of a lesson for them, I’m afraid the new entity has learnt nothing from it, or the football is being compromised for other issues. How can you possibly explain the above statement to the millions of followers who eagerly wait to cherish entertaining football from their beloved club?
While collective protests outside the club tent, bitter slogans, go-away chants do escalate the matter for the time being, lack of a permanent solution will make the problem recurring. As per popular norms, the club management is unwilling to lose importance and trying to avoid being at the mercy of the investors, which is justifiable to some extent. But, after all, Hari Mohan Bangur-owned Shree Cements is lending a hand of support in anticipation of returns, so why won’t they call the shots?
Anyhow, the club is being spared from too much distortion, with only the investor name prefixed for the new identity. It has already been a talk-of-the-town and a major banter material for the red and gold fans to tease their cross-roads neighbours Mohun Bagan, who are living with an ATK fixed on their club name and the crest. While their arch-rivals are suffocating from the existential crisis even now, SC East Bengal can step into a win-win situation, but the current stance is a clear-cut deviation.
With a pool of signings on the last day of the transfer window, SC East Bengal looked like a mediocre standard 8 student, trying to grasp lessons on the last day before the examination, only to get through to standard 9. However, for one of the elitist clubs in India, that’s a fall from glory. On top of that, it would be foolish to back the team to finish in the top-four of the 2021-22 ISL, making it even more unbearable for the fans, which might also include heavy defeats.
This can’t go on. A permanent tape to the leak must be formulated to end the woes. However, SC East Bengal does have a history with investors, with them eventually falling apart with Quess Corp Pvt Ltd a couple of years back, ending a partnership that took off smoothly and promised a bright future.
On the flip side, the investors, to some extent, need to handle matters a bit rationally, because a lot of sentiment and emotions are attached to the clubs. Recently, one of the ATK-Mohun Bagan club bosses made an untoward comment, which did not go down well with the fans, and received its due backlash.
In the midst of the cat and mouse game, the legacy of the clubs must not be jeopardized. Any sort of tarnish would eventually hamper the bigger picture. Agreed, that the clubs do need funds to keep the show going, but the investors, building on the popularity and legacy to fit in their trade, should abstain from transforming football clubs into mere money-mongering franchises.