| M. Suresh feels on top of the world after East Bengal’s second goal at Salt Lake Stadium Friday
Calcutta: They say nothing succeeds like success. But success also gives way to a wretched obligation — a pressure to keep the momentum going.
If the National Football League (NFL) title was the highest watermark East Bengal had aspired to attain this season, they know the road ahead is a tricky one considering the ever volatile transfers market. The burden of expectations is now more pronounced, as it becomes with every title, but there are reality checks for East Bengal officials.
“Money is the biggest problem. Even a National League or two means little to us when we come to face the reality of building a good team. Titles do not necessarily lead to extra sources of money,” club secretary Kalyan Majumdar said Friday.
He admitted it’s tough to retain the same side that gave the red-and-gold brigade its second success in the country’s most prestigious tournament.
Coach Subhas Bhowmick, who finally succeeded in guiding East Bengal to the summit after a failed attempt in 1999-2000, has made it clear he wants the same force for the ‘battle’ next season.
“We are disgusted with the sponsors (the UB Group). We really want to retain this side, barring a few players. But winning the NFL means the players will now ask for a pay-hike, but our hands are tied,” Majumdar regretted.
The UB Group has announced it won’t increase last year’s budget of Rs 1.5 crore for East Bengal, while Mohun Bagan will face a budget-cut in the forthcoming season.
Does this mean the National League champions will let a haemorrhage of established talent flow off the club' The answer, Majumdar said, was a sad yes.
“What can we do' Winning the National League is a great feeling but it’s unlikely to help our cause next season. The players will opt for clubs which will offer them more attractive packages,” Majumdar felt.
The East Bengal secretary’s feelings were echoed by Vasco SC coach Derick Perreira. “Incidents of players’ loyalty to a single club are rare. You should not expect a performer to turn his back to an attractive package,” Pereira said after the match.
Mohun Bagan claim to have clinched a deal with Vasco’s top-scorer Marcos Pereira while another key forward Rui Wanderley has an offer from a second division club in Brazil. Jules Alberto has also been approached by a Calcutta club.
The red-and-gold outfit will lose the League’s second-highest scorer, Mike Okoro, who will be heading for Poland. “But if I’m forced to come to India, I’ll only play for East Bengal,” he added. The officials are believed to be on the lookout for a Brazilian as Okoro’s replacement.
There is also a push for former India captain Jo Paul Ancheri, but the club is only intent on taking him without I.M. Vijayan.
It was the bench strength that set the champions apart from the rest. Majumdar said that retaining the same reserve bench will be the club’s top priority.