East Bengal dropped points in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) 2018 on Friday after a goalless draw against minnows Calcutta Customs in their second match.
The Red and Golds squandered too many chances and paid the price, Their opponents had managed just two shots on target.
The 0-0 draw was followed by a massive fan outrage against technical director Subhash Bhowmick. ‘Go back Subhash Bhowmick’ chants were vociferous in nature outside the stadium.
Since the beginning of the season, Bhowmick has maintained his stance on giving more chances to the Indian players so as to prepare them for the I-League. The East Bengal director has chosen the CFL as a rehearsal for the I-League, a trophy that has remained elusive for the club for 15 years now.
So far, Bhowmick used only one foreign player, Kassim Aidara, in the starting lineup. Ace Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna has not started matches in CFL but he was brought on in the second half against Customs to bail the team out of a difficult situation.
Subhash Bhowmick was not at all apologetic about his team selection after the draw and rather suggested that he will continue with his experiments.
After the match, Bhowmick had said, “I don't want Amna to play CFL matches. We need him for bigger occasions. We are going through a process.”
Bhowmick is absolutely right and he must not change his approach just because the team dropped points. If CFL has to be sacrificed to unearth new talents and provide more game time to the Indian players, then so be it.
East Bengal have established themselves as the undisputed kings of CFL in the last eight years. They have broken and created several records and they have won the title 39 times, 10 more than arch-rivals Mohun Bagan.
Yet, the club must prioritise the I-League over CFL now. With a new investor on board, East Bengal have the much-needed financial power to recruit good foreign players.
The process has already started as the club signed Costa Rican defender Johnny Acosta Zamora who played in the World Cup in Russia.
Acosta’s arrival has already shown us that the club is on the right track but the supporters need to be patient as work is in progress at East Bengal
However, Subash Bhowmick and coach Bastob Roy need to work on certain aspects of the team. At present they have only three strikers in their side - newly arrived Gagandeep Bali, a half-fit Joby Justin and youngster Lalchinhima who recently got promoted from the U-19 side.
Gagandeep Bali needs time to adjust to the conditions and the pressure of playing in Kolkata. He still looks perplexed on the pitch at times and needs more matches to get himself acclimatized.
With such an inexperienced side, East Bengal might lose out on winning their ninth consecutive CFL title but the experience which the domestic players stand to gain is of great value for the short and long-term future of the club.