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East Bengal's poor transfer policy a major reason behind their I-League trophy drought

04:16 GMT 04/03/2020
Jaime Santos East Bengal
The Red and Golds have brought in Costa Rican defender Johnny Acosta with just six matches to go this season...

East Bengal’s poor transfer policy has been one of the major reasons behind their failure to become India's domestic league champions since 2003-04. Little has changed in this season as well. 

With five matches to go, East Bengal are still chopping and changing their overseas contingent as Costa Rican World Cupper Johnny Acosta is likely to replace Ansumana Kromah, who himself joined the club in the winter transfer market. 

East Bengal started the season with five fit overseas players with Borja Gomez Perez on the nursing table. It was expected that the sturdy centre back would rejoin practice by the end of December and would be available for selection from mid-January. But unfortunately, he had to leave for Spain due to personal reasons and was eventually released soon after.  

Marti Crespi remained the sole foreign personnel in defence but he was also having a tough time settling down in his new surroundings. His performances continued to dip and he was also shown the exit door by mid-February.  Now East Bengal have parted ways with both their foreign centre-backs and yet the team management did not seem it fit to rope in a replacement, for reasons best known to them. Instead, they signed a striker in Ansumana Kromah and a central midfielder in Victor Perez.

With the fate of the championship almost sealed,  Acosta touched down in Kolkata on Monday morning. He remains a doubtful starter against Real Kashmir but can feature in the Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan on March 15. Hence, the 36-year old can make a maximum of four appearances and with the title race already done and dusted. 

Whereas, Mohun Bagan have hardly put a step wrong in recruiting their foreign players. When they realised that Salva Chamorro was not living up to the expectations, the officials signed Papa Babacar Diawara with alacrity. Komron Tursunov arrived as the replacement of an injured Julen Colinas within two weeks. And both the new-arrivals were like-for-like changes which ensured that the team dynamics were not hampered. 

But, this is not a new malaise of The Red and Golds. In the last decade or so, more often than not they have failed to finalise their quota of foreign players from the beginning of the season. In 2016-17, during Trevor James Morgan’s second stint at the club, East Bengal had initially recruited Kyrgyz Republic international striker Ildar Amirov but he was shown the door after five matches. They had replaced him with Australian striker Chris Payne who never really settled at the club jeopardising the chances of winning the league.

The management did not learn from their mistake and in the following season, the tradition continued. Khalid Jamil, who arrived fresh after winning the I-League with Aizawl FC, failed to repeat his success at the Kolkata club and much of it can be labelled on the erratic transfer policy. Striker Charles D’Souza was replaced by Dudu Omagbemi whereas another forward in Ansumana Kromah came in place of defensive midfielder Bazie Armand.

As the wait continues for their first I-League trophy, the management needs to do some soul-searching and course correction. Their unwillingness to learn in spite of repeatedly making the same mistakes have been costing the club quite dearly for more than a decade.