AFTER A LESS-THAN-IMPRESSIVE I-League campaign in the 2014-15 season, East Bengal are building a new-look side to put up a competent title challenge this time around.
Central to that is the recruitment of 3 new foreigners to replace those they released. Two of them have already been purchased; Nigerian defender Bello Razaq has been poached from arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, while former A-League player, South Korean winger Do Dong-hyun has joined the Red and Golds to play alongside their star striker, Ranti Martins. The whole team is now busy at a pre-season training camp in Kalyani, a town in South Bengal with a top football academy.
While the training is going well and they have even played their first practice match (against CFL Premier Division 'B' side Peerless FC, a 1-1 draw), a new injury has the coaching staff worried. Their new South Korean recruit Do Dong-hyun picked up a groin injury one day during practice. He was given the rest of the day off to recover. Next morning when he took the field for fitness drills, the pain re-surged, and he was taken off the field immediately to have the physio take a deeper look into the injury.
It is being said that the muddy pitches of West Bengal, typical during the summer due to rains, is something Dong-hyun is having trouble to adjust with. The 21 year old comes with a diverse playing experience; he has played professionally in Australia, Japan and even India, for NorthEast United in last year's ISL. But the conditions in Guwahati were vastly different from that of Bengal. Even when he visited Kolkata for their away match with ATK, he only had the artificial turf of the Salt Lake Stadium to deal with.
But this time season, most of the football in Kolkata will be played on natural grass turf. Salt Lake stadium is getting a new grass pitch, while East Bengal and Mohun Bagan will play most of their CFL matches on their own grounds, which have always had natural grass on them. So getting used to some mud and wet grass is a challenge Dong-hyun, and indeed any new recruit made from outside Bengal by the Kolkata clubs, will have to get used to.
Aiming for a record-equaling 6th straight title, East Bengal play their first match in the CFL on 8th August against Tollygunge Agragami. Dong-hyun has entered rehab, and is expected to be back in the side long before that.