By Samindra Kunti
September 4 – In a dramatic few weeks for Indian football, East Bengal look set to become the 11th franchise in the 2020/21 ISL season. The Kolkata giants have secured a new investor in the club, Shree Cement, which could propel them towards ISL entry as organisers ISDL issued invitations to bid for a new franchise.
Invitations have been sent to six cities – Delhi, Ludhiana, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Siliguri and Bhopal – but East Bengal, one of India’s most storied clubs, are the firm favourites to win the bid and cross over from the I-League.
They will follow arch rivals Mohun Bagan, who will feature in this season’s league following their merger with three-time ISL champions ATK. Bengal had been struggling after the withdrawal of sponsor Quess in June, but by roping in Shree Cement the club overcame a major hurdle.
“This will show a new path to others,” said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a news conference. “It is really commendable of Shree Cements to come up and invest in football in such times. Hopefully, there won’t be any more difficulties for East Bengal in the future. We want Bengal to be best in everything. Bengal should always show the way. Really happy that East Bengal’s problems are over and they can take part in the ISL.”
East Bengal’s entry into the ISL would mark a victory for Reliance, the driving force behind the Bollywood-styled league.
Mukesh Ambani commands Reliance Industries corporate empire which owns the ISL, but ever since the first iteration of the ISL in 2014 critics have argued that the ISL has been destructive for the organic development of the game, with the I-League recently recast as India’s second-tier club competition. The Kolkata club’s exit from the I-League would be a hammer blow to the league which has been struggling ever since the launch of the ISL.
The 2020-21 season of the ISL is due to kick off in November behind closed doors in Goa.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1600633463labto1600633463ofdlr1600633463owedi1600633463sni@o1600633463fni1600633463