AFTER A LONG TRAINING CAMP at Kalyani and some practice matches, East Bengal are now days away from their season-opening Calcutta Football League encouter with Tollygunge Agragami. Football fans from Kolkata will remember this match being significant, because last year it was the last match of the CFL season, and upon its outcome depended the fate of the title (Win for either East Bengal or Tollygunge would win them the trophy, while a draw would make Mohun Bagan the champions). East Bengal came out on top in a hard-fought match and claimed the local league for themselves for the 5th time in a row.
This time East Bengal are looking for a historic, record-equalling 6th straight CFL title, and the preparations have been going on for a while. Under newly-appointed coach Biswajit Bhattacharya, the Red and Golds were the first to assemble for pre-season. Apart from the usual suspects, East Bengal have bolstered their squad with the inclusion of South Korean midfielder Do Dong-hyun, players poached from arch rivals Mohun Bagan like Bello Razaq and Chinadorai Sabeeth, and young Indian players like Bikash Jairu, Rahul Bheke, Jagannath Sana and Samad Ali Mallick. The whole squad was unveiled before the media today at the East Bengal club tent.
The team also underwent medical tests to gauge their state of fitness and well-being ahead of the CFL season-starter.
Ranti Martins may not attain full fitness before the Tollygunge Agragami match, according to the player himself. In case the player is unavailable, East Bengal will have to depend on Sabeeth as the man up front. Other players like Arnab Mondal and Cavin Lobo will leave for national shortly after mid-August, so utilising the young local players may prove to be a deciding factor in whether or not East Bengal manage to come out on top. Which means the upcoming CFL will provide a major chance for the young talents at the team to prove themselves.
The full East Bengal squad as it stands is given below -
Goalkeepers: Dibyendu Sarkar, Abhra Mondal, Luis Barreto.
Defenders: Arnab Mondal, Abhishek Das, Bello Razaq (Nigeria), Deepak Mandal, Gurwinder Singh, Robert Lalthlamuana, Saumik Dey, Rahul Bheke, Babu Mondal, Narayan Das.
Midfielders: Harmanjot Khabra, Alvito D'Cunha, Mehtab Hossain, Joaquim Abranches, Lalrindika Ralte, Cavin Lobo, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Abhinas Ruidas, Prohlad Roy, Anthony Soren, Avinabo Bag, Bikash Jairu, Jagannath Sana, Do Dong-hyun (South Korea), Pronay Halder.
Forwards: Ranti Martins (Nigeria), Jiten Murmu, Samad Ali Mallick, Chinadorai Sabeeth.