Revisiting the Highs and the Lows as Quess era ends for East Bengal FC!
Last Updated 8:36 PM 30th May 2020 .
31 May, 2020 would mark the end of Quess Corp. era at East Bengal Football Club. The two years of partnership with the club has been a controversial ride for both the parties, at times even dividing the fan base to sections. Let us revisit the highs and lows of the investor group’s tenure at the club.
The Bengaluru based investor group came in after East Bengal FC ended ties with long term partners United Breweries Ltd. at the end of 2017/18 season. On 5 July 2018, Quess Corp. signed with East Bengal FC leading to the formation of Quess East Bengal FC with the investor group holding major shares and footballing rights.
The tenure of Quess East Bengal FC has been a mixed bag with highs and lows, varying with contrast in the two seasons particularly. There were definitely more laudable moments from the first season in charge than what happened in the second. We have put forward some of the best moments from the two seasons:
Malaysia Pre Season
The start of 2018/19 season saw a major overhaul of the club by the investor group bringing in former Real Madrid assistant manager Alejandro Menendez Garcia as the head coach of the club along with his two assistants Mario Rivera and physical trainer Carlos Nodar Paz.
After the end of the Calcutta Football League, the Spanish coach took charge from Subhash Bhowmick, who was the technical director during the CFL. The team management decided to organise a three week pre-season camp ahead of the I-League at Malaysia where they would also play a few friendly matches to prepare for the I-League campaign.
The pre-season camp was surely a hit as players like Jobby Justin, Laldanmawia Ralte, Enrique Esqueda etc. formed a great partnership which was evident in the I-League campaign later on. East Bengal FC also played a few friendlies against Malaysian Premier League teams – winning 4-1 against UiTM FC and 6-2 against PDRM FA while also playing a goalless draw against Malaysian Super Division side Terrenganu FC which featured likes of Lee Tuck and former East Bengal FC player Do Dong-Hyun.
One of the most satisfying feeling for any fan is winning the Derby over their arch-rivals. In 2018/19 season, East Bengal FC under Alejandro Menendez managed to end 32 months draught of not winning a Kolkata Derby since 2 April 2016 when Do Dong-Hyun’s brace overpowered the Mariners at Siliguri.
East Bengal FC team in the 2018/19 season managed to win both the Derbies in the I-League, completing a double over Mohun Bagan for the first time since 2003/04 season.
The first leg was a tightly fought 3-2 victory for the Red and Gold brigade with Laldanmawia Ralte grabbing a brace and Jobby Justin scoring a memorable backvolley. The second leg was an one sided affair – a Jobby Justin show as the Keralite first assisted one to Jaime Colado and then scoring himself to brag the city rights for the second time in the season.
Even though the title was narrowly lost on the last day by a single point, the fans were praiseful of the team and their performance for the season.
Thousands gathered at the Kolkata airport to welcome the team as they were returning from Kerala after the last game, giving a heroes welcome, something which is unexpected in Kolkata football.
If 2018/19 I-League was the epitome of highs for Quess East Bengal FC, then what followed next could be termed as a series of lows that continued until the investor group decided to eventually terminate their ties with the club.
First: Quess East Bengal FC management right after the end of 2018/19 I-League, joined the I-League Club Union that rebelled against the AIFF in their demands for a roadmap for Indian football and boycotted the Indian Super Cup that was supposed to take place in April 2019. East Bengal FC were supposed to face Delhi Dynamos in the Pre-Quarterfinals but the management didn’t field the team and a walkover was handed.
Second: Even if fans understood the reasons behind the first instance of the walkover in the Super Cup, they were very much angered by the second instance when the team management decided to hand a walkover in the last match of the 2019 Calcutta Football League to minnows Calcutta Customs due to a rift with IFA regarding the schedule of the game. The Customs team travelled to Kalyani and even posed for team photos, to the agony of the fans who were already getting angry upon the Quess East Bengal FC management.
Transfer Market Failures
One of the biggest failures of the Quess East Bengal FC management was certainly in the transfer market as they failed to hold onto the best players of the 2018/19 season and also failed to bring in proper replacements for the outgoing names.
Jobby Justin, Laldanmawia Ralte and Enrique Esqueda – the trio together scored 26 goals among the 37 goals East Bengal FC scored in the I-League and none of them could be retained by the management for the 2019/20 season. Even in the defence, two of the regular names who were the best performers of the season – Johnny Acosta and Lalramchullova were also not retained and the set team was broken.
The replacements of the outgoing names like Enrique Esqueda and Johnny Acosta were also big flops – striker Marcos de la Espada scored just 6 goals in the I-League campaign and defender Marti Crespi failed to keep a single clean-sheet in the campaign!
Rift Between Management
Ever since the Super Cup boycott happened, the rift between the Quess Corp. and East Bengal FC officials surfaced publicly with both parties making statements on the other.
The failure to deliver trophies and also the issue about not taking other tournaments seriously did make the club officials lash out publicly on the Quess East Bengal FC management. The rift was so huge that it even affected the performances on pitch and hence a forgettable season did take place.
Poor On-field Performance
The worst part of the tenure would surely be the performance on pitch in the 2019/20 season for the Red and Gold brigade. The team management did not take the Calcutta Football League and Durand Cup seriously. They even withdrew from the Sheikh Kamal International Cup that was held in Dhaka, where fellow I-League clubs like Mohun Bagan and Gokulam Kerala participated as a preparatory tournament ahead of the I-League.
In the I-League, the team suffered a horrific spell as they were once down in the relegation zone after suffering a hat-trick of defeats. Coach Alejandro Menendez resigned after the 2-1 Derby defeat and in came Mario Rivera to take charges and East Bengal FC pulled up to second spot in the league table.
The two seasons of partnership between the Quess Corp. and East Bengal FC has surely been an adventurous ride with positives and negatives, a relationship which could have brought large success to the club but turned sour due to various reasons.
East Bengal Football Club aims to participate in the Indian Super League from the upcoming season and now with their investors Quess Corp. leaving, the fans would be eager to see whom the club now brings in as their main investors or sponsors, who would back the club financially to be able to play in the ISL from the upcoming season.