Calcutta: In the last four seasons, East Bengal have won all the major trophies barring the I-League. They have played good football consistently but agonisingly fell short of crossing the finishing line.
In a bid to win the I-League title this time around, East Bengal have recruited players like Ranty Martins, Mohammed Rafique and Luis Barreto. However, their most prized signing has been Leo Bertos.
The 32-year-old winger played a pivotal role for New Zealand in the 2010 World Cup and has donned the All Whites jersey 56 times. For the record, he is the eighth World Cupper to ply his trade in the country after Sanzari, Majid Baskar, Emeka Ezeugo, McDonald Mukansi, Densil Theobald, Carlos Hernandez and Cornell Glenn.
Bertos is well aware of the responsibilities. He also explained why he chose to play for an Indian club.
“I am good friends with defender Simon Colosimo… We used to play together in the A-League. Last year, he had a good season with Dempo and I heard a lot about Indian football from him. He told me that Indian football is undergoing a lot of changes and the I-League is pretty young.
“I want to be a part of that change. Simon also told me about East Bengal and told me that they have a huge history. So I wanted to be a part of the club. It is a new and an exciting challenge for me. I made the decision after giving it a long thought,” Bertos told The Telegraph from Auckland on Monday.
“I know that I need to adapt to the conditions there. First of all, the temperature is 8 degrees here. In Calcutta, it is 30-plus. So I need to acclimatise as soon as I reach there.
“Also, the playing style will be very different. But, being a professional, I need to adapt quickly. I know that East Bengal haven’t won the I-League as of yet… I will give my best and want to win the league.”
Bertos is expected to arrive in Calcutta early August. When told that there will be huge pressure on him to perform, Bertos said that he loves playing under pressure. “Pressure is good. It keeps a player on his toes,” said Bertos.
“The 2014 World Cup final was between a team which had many good players and a team comprising the best player. In the end, the team with many good players won. So that proves individual talent cannot win you a title. You need to perform as a team to win trophies.”