Throwback: East Bengal’s partnership with Leicester City!
Last Updated 6:50 PM 23rd December 2019 .
East Bengal FC are talking with Scottish giants Celtic FC for a possible commercial partnership and a possible take over of the Kolkata club, with the commercial director visiting Kolkata to have further talks.
However, long before talks with Celtic FC or even their the partnership with the current investors Quess Corporation, East Bengal club had a well documented partnership with English Premier League giants Leicester City FC back in 2004.
The Foxes wanted to expand their reach to Asian sub continent and who better it could have been than then National League champions East Bengal FC who also won the ASEAN Cup a few months back.
In February 2004, the first-of-a kind deal was signed between the two clubs which ensured both the parties to have greater commercial and footballing growth.
The partnership meant Leicester City would help East Bengal through grassroot development and provide training facilities to the Kolkata club through various programmes. Leicester City also invited East Bengal FC to play a friendly in England later in the year when they would be celebrating their 120th Foundation Day.
In July 2004, a 20 man team visited England and played two friendly games in the Pepsi Max Challenge Cup at the King Power Stadium.
Squad that visited England:
Goalkeepers: Sangram Mukherjee (captain), Rajat Ghosh Dastidar.
Defenders: Deepak Mandal, Selwyn Fernandes, Louis Aniweta, Syed Hussain, Madhab Das
Midfielders: Climax Lawrence, Douglas D’Silva, Alvito D’Cunha, Shylo Malsawmtluanaga, Sasthi Duley, Dipankar Roy, Chandan Das, Sujoy Dutta, Sandip Das, Tushar Rakshit.
Strikers: Bhaichung Bhutia, Syed Rahim Nabi, Bijen Singh.
The first match was against Leicester City which East Bengal narrowly lost courtesy of a penalty goal from Jamaican international Trevor Benjamin in the 69th minute. Former Manchester United winger Keith Gillespie and Iceland international Joey Gudjonsson also featured for the Foxes in the game.
The second game was a third place playoff against Portuguese Super Liga side CS Maritimo, which the Portuguese side had the better of the Red and Gold brigade as they won 3-0.
The two losses were however overpowered by the fact that East Bengal team were highly praised for their performances in English conditions.
The deal with Leicester City however faded away quickly as both parties lost interest in taking the partnership forward.
This was in the era when Indian football were still in it’s infancy regarding professionalism and commercial growth. What could have been a deal to take the next step forward, obscured into oblivion.