Shyamal Ghosh and Shyam Thapa after receiving the Lifetime Achievement awards on East Bengal’s 97th Foundation Day on Monday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday doled out a financial bonanza for the Calcutta Football League's Premier Division clubs on the Maidan.
Speaking at the 97th Foundation Day of East Bengal club, Mamata said 13 clubs - including East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting - would receive Rs 50 lakh each every year for development of infrastructure and coaching. This grant will be for two years, but office clubs will not be part of the bonanza.
"The government would do its bit to save these cash-strapped clubs," said Mamata.
In addition, East Bengal would get another Rs 2 crore to complete the renovation of its stadium and installation of floodlights. "Football is in our blood. Why can't we have a Maradona, Ronaldinho or Lionel Messi from Bengal?" she said while stressing on sports schools and academies to identify and hone new talents.
"Forget what has not been done. Think of what can be done in the future."
State ministers Aroop Biswas and Firhad Hakim were also present.
The chief minister said an expert committee will be formed comprising former footballers as part of a development programme. "We are going to host matches of the under-17 World Cup football in 2017. This is will be a matter of pride for the people of India as well as Bengal," she reminded.
Milkha Singh, who was given the Bharat Gaurav award, wasn't present because of illness. Shyam Thapa and Shyamal Ghosh received Lifetime Achievement awards while Do Dong Hyun was adjudged the Player of the Year for his performance last season.
Minangashu Bhattacharjee and Anamika Sen were adjudged best referees.
Mamata called on stage former footballers like Syed Nayeemuddin, Surajit Sengupta, Samaresh Banerjee and Bhaichung Bhutia before the function got underway. Later, it was at her insistence that a bunch of young trainees, who greeted her with flowers, also got to sit amid the soccer stars.
The current squad along with coach Trevor James Morgan were present during the lighting of the lamp.
A first-day cover on the club was also released on the occasion.
The chief minister said the state government would plan grand celebrations to mark the club's 100 years in 2019.