Football in Kolkata has mostly developed in terms of passion all these years. Little has happened in the sphere of infrastructure development. Which means a directive from the Asian Football Confederation, that sought to initiate Indian clubs into professional framework, has remained mostly unattended.

None of the clubs have property which they can claim as their own. Now East Bengal has made the first move after almost 90 years of its existence by purchasing two floors of a building in the southern part of the city. It aims to use this property to accommodate the trainees of its proposed academy.

There are five Kolkata clubs playing in the two divisions of the I-League but none of them can claim of having the infrastructure that would place them in league with clubs in South Asia or Middle East, where the game has developed professionally. Of them the two leading names Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have the wherewithal to adopt the changes. More so because these two clubs, apart from Mohammedan Sporting, thrive on fans’ support.

Few years ago, Mohun Bagan made the first effort to come out of the time-wrap by starting its academy. But the club cannot claim a sole ownership, as it depends on Steel Authority of India, which is providing the infrastructure for the academy in its campus in Durgapur. Though belated East Bengal has gone one step ahead compared to its traditional rival.

One of the major provisions contained in the AFC directive asked the Indian clubs to rationalise their spending. This meant allocating sufficient funds out of their budget for youth development, community development and improvement of infrastructure among others. What has come as the biggest hindrance in the way of club licensing, the term used by AFC to get the clubs conform to a structured system of functioning is the mindset of the existing administrators.

“We have remained amateurish in mind. We can only act when we are able to vision the needs for transformation,” says Dr. Santiranjan Dasgupta, one of the important names in the East Bengal administrative hierarchy. “Despite its reputation the club faced lot of hurdles in obtaining the bank loan after we decided to purchase the two floors of a building for our academy. The reason was that the club had no property to show as collateral security,” he said.

East Bengal is almost set to acquire its own training ground where it will bring up the academy.

“All our football activities are scattered. We have the club in one part of the city while our official ground (Salt Lake Stadium) is in the other part. How can we focus our development process,” says Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra. “We have the academy running on the infrastructure provided by SAIL. Even the academy is registered officially in the joint name,” Mitra has a different mode for development. The club has constituted a separate body for the running of the academy, which hosts about 40 trainees.

“It is the economics of transfers of players between different clubs which constitute an important part of a professional system. Once this system gets running well have better funds to manage,” says Mitra while adding that there should be some ways to recover the huge costs to training the players after keeping them in a residential academy.

East Bengal is on the verge of a major overhaul in its administrative functioning. “We have decided to go for a professional set-up employing an executive officer, marketing manager and a person for media relations who will handle the running of the club professionally. We hope to get this implemented in the clubs next annual general meeting,” Dasgupta said.

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