Chief minister Mamata Banerjee may not have granted East Bengal’s South Korean star Do Dong-huyn’s wish, but she did announce a couple of surprise gifts for the club: Extra financial aid to complete the renovation work of their galleries and grand centenary celebrations when the club turns hundred in three years’ time.
Banerjee was the chief guest of East Bengal’s 97th Foundation Day at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra on Monday evening. When she was being introduced to the current players and team coach Trevor Morgan, Do Dong – who was named the team’s best player in 2015-16 – requested the chief minister to pose for a selfie, but was refused politely. The chief minister, however, didn’t disappoint the club officials.In spite of having received numerous grants from the state government, East Bengal officials are yet to complete the renovation of the galleries. As a result, the club ground is not yet ready to host local league matches this season. The chief minister, though, promised the club that her government was ready to lend a helping hand.”I have seen the stadium from outside. A lot of work has been done. Floodlights will also be installed here. Our government will grant the club an extra Rs 2 crore to complete the renovation work as quickly as possible,” she said amid thunderous applause.Banerjee also promised financial aid to 13 clubs, including the Big 3 – East Bengal,Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting – for the next couple of years.”Football clubs here are going through a financial crisis. In spite of our our limited resources, the government will provide 13 top city-based clubs, excluding the office clubs, a grant of Rs 50 lakh each in 2016 and 2017,” she said.”I have tasked sports minister (Aroop Biswas) to form an experts committee and draw up a 10-year plan to promote sports in the state. Let’s start with football. We are helping these clubs on an experimental basis and will see how the scheme works,” she added.”When East Bengal Club completes its centenary, the state government will celebrate it in a befitting way,” she promised and urged the sports department and football clubs to get retired footballers involved in various development projects. The chief minister also launched the club’s almanac.The club conferred the prestigious Bharat Gaurav award on Olympian and track legend Milkha Singh. The octogenarian, who is not keeping well, could not make the trip to the city. His secretary received the award on his behalf.Former East Bengal stalwarts Shyam Thapa and Shyamal Ghosh were honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards. “We used to wear the red-and-gold jersey with pride. I’m moved by the club’s gesture. It feels good to be still remembered and loved,” said Ghosh, under whose captaincy East Bengal became CFL champions in 1977 without losing a match.Referees Mrinanshu Bhattacharjee and Anamika Sen were also felicitated.Former players Syed Nayeemuddin – who received the Mohun Bagan Ratna three days ago -and his contemporaries like Samaresh Chowdhury and Surajit Sengupta as well as Baichung Bhutia were present on the occasion.