BY NISANTH V EASWAR Follow @Niktheblue94 on Twitter
For a club that won back-to-back titles (National Football League at that time) at the start of the 21st century, East Bengal's profligacy has been unbelievable. The 2017-18 I-League season epitomised the recent past of the Kolkata-based football club and it has been disheartening for their ardent group of supporters.
How long can the pain continue? It has been a rollercoaster ride this season in I-League for a lot of clubs but East Bengal needs to look at it and retrospect. What if...?
The 14-year long wait could have ended, Alvito D'Cunha would have been forgiven, Khalid Jamil would have been hailed as the masterminded tactician who secured back-to-back titles with two different clubs. But things did not go according to plan for the Red and Golds.
A football club is nothing without fans, both emotionally and financially. You need fans to turn up, pay for their tickets and also cheer for the team. There's always money involved and like in any business, when you spend money for a service, you want to be satisfied with that service. It is not too different when it comes to football.
When fans are dedicating their time, energy and money to turn up in large numbers at stadiums, the management and players need to recognize their worth and repay them with consistent attempts at success. It is one thing to put up a fight and lose but bottling it and falling down like a deck of cards is just not acceptable.
East Bengal lost to a passionate Gokulam Kerala in Kozhikode and in the aftermath of that game, frustrated supporters protested against the result outside the stadium. A week later, the same team thrashed Chennai City 7-1 at home and suddenly everything felt like it was on the right track again. Goodness gracious, they were wrong.
With the title firmly in their hands - East Bengal just needing to win their remaining two games to bring home the coveted trophy - Khalid Jamil's men succumbed to a 2-2 draw at Shillong. Another draw against NEROCA FC followed in their very last league game to push them down to the fourth spot on the table.
To add insult to injury, it has been two underdogs who have clinched the title in the last two years. Minerva Punjab got promoted to the top-tier last season and fought their way to the title through sheer dedication and hard work. Aizawl FC pulled off a 'Leicester' and put up a remarkable run last season to bag the trophy. And even NEROCA, this season's newly promoted team, put up a grand fight in the race for the title and ended the season second in the standings, above East Bengal. Does that mean East Bengal are not a top club anymore?
Time to get your act together, East Bengal. Because your fans deserve better.