IN A MASSIVE RELIEF FOR East Bengal, it appears the dreaded FIFA transfer ban on them is about to be lifted.
The club ran into trouble with the global football organization over unpaid dues to Costa Rican international Jhonny Acosta.
Acosta played for the Red and Golds when the club had Quess Corp as their chief investor. But last year, Quess and East Bengal went their separate ways. But when East Bengal received their sporting rights back from Quess, they also received the debt of unpaid wages that some players were subjected to, with Quess invoking the 'force majeure' clause to end certain contracts early citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jhonny Acosta was one of those players who had unpaid dues from the club, and he suffered a rough ordeal trying to get back to his country during the lockdowns. Afterwards, he approached FIFA, who imposed a transfer ban on East Bengal over the non-payment of dues; one that would be lifted the moment the specified amount was paid.
But the new investors of East Bengal - a consortium led by Shree Cement owner Mr Hari Mohan Bangur - had refused to pay the outstanding dues so far due to a long-standing disagreement over the terms of their final agreement. Because of this, East Bengal could neither get rid off the transfer ban, nor plan for the season ahead, including the signings they wanted to make. Even playing in ISL 2021-22 was not a sure thing.
But in the last few days things have taken a positive turn. A week after multiple East Bengal fan groups took to the streets protesting against the club officials and advocating the signing of the deal, the number of meetings between the club officials and investors picked up with lawyers involved from both sides. In the last few days, the points of disagreement between the two sides had come down to just two.
Although no official decision has been announced, it seems the two sides have more or less come to an agreement at this point. And as a result of that, the FIFA-specified amount has been paid by the investors. The transfer ban is expected to be officially lifted soon.
The Red and Golds have also picked up pace on their transfer signings, with rumours of them talking to other Indian clubs to bring in players going around the grapevine. They are also likely to take part in the Durand Cup, which is expected to take place in Kolkata around September; serving as an early season cup tournament that can help set up a club's squad ahead of the ISL campaign which begins in November.