East Bengal are all set to participate in the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) after roping in Shree Cement as their new sponsors. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already stated that East Bengal will play in the ISL from the 2020-21 season.
While the move has been cherished widely, it also means that their dream to land the coveted I-League trophy at the East Bengal tent in Leslie Claudius Sarani remains unfulfilled.
It has been 16 agonising seasons for the Red and Gold fans since they last won the domestic league championship in the National Football League (NFL) era in 2003-04 under the tutelage of Subhash Bhowmick. Several high profile signings led by brilliant tacticians have been flown in from across the globe, but their efforts were not enough to turn their fortunes.
They have finished as runners-up on several occassions but due to a myriad of administrative and sporting failures, the I-League trophy has remained elusive.
The Trevor James Morgan-era has been undoubtedly one of the most decorated periods in the century for the club. Under the British coach, the club had won trophies in each of his three seasons but faltered every time in the I-League. Callous transfer policy coupled with their tendency to choke in the final rounds of the league hindered their bid to achieve the objective.
In none of the three seasons, the club had managed to sign all four foreigners before the I-League campaign began. From Alexandro Da Silva to Edmilson to Andrew Barisic, every player joined the club midway in the league.
In 2012, East Bengal met Dempo in the penultimate matchday in Goa. It was a must-win match for the Kolkata-based side but they could only manage to churn out a goalless draw, and hence Dempo walked away with the title.
In the next season, under Armando Colaco, they put up a strong show in the business end of the tournament, but the damage had already been done owing to a slow which saw Brazilian coach Marcos Falopa facing the axe.
In 2018, new dawn ushered in with Quess Corp taking over majority shares in the club. They roped in former assistant of Jose Mourinho - Alejandro Menendez - at the helm and the Spaniard looked to set to accomplish the mission I-League. But defeat to eventual champions Chennai City at both home and away, saw them miss out on the top spot by just a point.
And after another second spot finish in the previous season, their tryst with I-League seems to have ended on a bitter note.
Although the record books will not flash East Bengal's name amongst the title winners of the erstwhile top division league, a strong start to the ISL campaign and winning it in the maiden attempt might kindle a new era in the club's illustrious history after years of disappointment in the league.