In addition to finishing second in the I-League, East Bengal finished second in the U-19 I-League as well. The presence of several promising U-19 players assures a bright future for the Lal-Hould brigade.
A Recap of U-19 I-League
The junior red and gold’s started their season in the Kolkata zone, on 12th feb,2014 dismantling Bhawanipore FC 2-0, with Jiten Murmu and Budhwa Bara both on the score-sheet. The young guns showed a glimpse of what we were about to see from them throughout the rest of the season. They grabbed the local bragging rights with 2-0 victory over arch city rivals Mohun Bagan u-19 with Jiten Murmu ensuring the victory after Hiran Mondal had given the red and gold brigade the lead from the spot. East Bengal qualified from their group with a game in hand as they humbled Mohammedan SC 5-1 . Jiten Murmu again gave a Man Of the Match performance scoring a Hat-Trick while Seiminlen Doungel(Len) and Dipankar also got their names in the scoresheet . Heading into the final game of the season, EB u-19 went into the match against United.S.C U-19 already assured of the top spot, in their Kolkata zone group and knowing even a loss , would make them progress from the Kolkata zone. United SC defeated East Bengal 2-1 in the final group game .
The finals started from 21st April 2014 in Jamshedpur and KEB U-19 played out a hard-fought goalless draw with the Tata Football Academy, but they soon gained momentum defeating SESA FC in their next match 3-2. The third match in the final round against AIFF U-19 would ultimately decide the league title. The AIFF U19 team who had qualified from the Maharashtra zone defeated EB U19 2-1. AIFF u 19 player Gurshirmat tormented the East Bengal defense throughout and scored the opening goal of the match and the winner in injury time ,to dent the clubs league title aspirations .
With the league virtually out of their own hands, the young players did not lose character and they turned up against the minnows Hindustan FC like they had a point to prove; Jiten Murmu dismantled Hindustan FC by scoring 4 goals out the 7 scored by the team. On the final day of the season with the league already wrapped up by TFA ,Jiten Murmu scored a 18th minute winner ,to help the Red and Golds overcome Shillong Lajong u19 to finish as runners up .East Bengal finished with 10 points from 5 games ,3 points behind leaders Tata Football Academy.
Coaches and The Key Players
It will be naive to ignore the contribution made by Tarun Dey ,the coach and Prabir Kr Das & Susanta Das, the managers ,of the U19 squad that improved the performance of a team who were 12 points behind Pune fc, in the previous season and with a single point were languishing at the bottom. They helped the team come second and will hope to go one better in the near future.
During Marcos Falopa’s managerial reign, Jiten Murmu and Kishan Bag (captain -EB U19) were called up to practice with the senior squad. It can only be hoped after their performance in the U19 league that more young players are given a chance. Seiminlen Doungel (Len) was a prominent performer for the senior squad as well as the under 19 squad and recently the club allowed him to join Shillong Lajong . Players like Subhankar Sana, Sukamal Bose, Wasim Akram Mollik and Santadip Kanjilal were an integral part of the team that emerged runners up .Players like Ashish Kar and Rakesh Yadav had been selected for trials at the Tata Football Academy. With the new I-League season starting in December and the club deciding to part with many players like Edeh Chidi , James Moga , Suyeka , Baljit , Gurpreet, etc from the senior side , Armando Colaco does’nt have to go too far to find replacements as they can look within their youth squad to find suitable replacements.
With Ranty Martins already being roped in by East Bengal, Jiten Murmu the top scorer for the under 19 team has been roped in to the senior team to add depth to the attacking line up, hopefully he can step up and increase the competition for the attacking options available to Armando Colaco and by the performances he has given in the under-19 I-league this season, it shows that he is more than capable of stepping up when required. The club has also recruited defender Wasim Akram Mollick who has also been one of the stand out performers during the under 19 campaign. The defender has been brilliant at the back throughout and will be a good squad player. Marcos Falopa was so impressed with the young defender’s performance so much last season, that he asked the defender to join in the senior squad practice. Striker Budhwa Bara first came into prominence in a match in 2013 , when he scored all 4 goals as East Bengal Boys defeated Uttar Pradesh XI 4-1 in the Manchester United cup, is another player to keep an eye on.
Clubs like Ajax ,Barcelona , Manchester United ,etc have showed us the benefits of having a good youth system, as it not only produces quality players who later go on to wear the jersey which save the club a lot of money ,but also the players who come through the youth system know what it means to represent the club and the true values of the club. Not only do the clubs reap benefits of a good youth system, but also their national teams as the all conquering Spain squad that won the 2008 and 2012 Euro’s and the 2010 Fifa World Cup reaped the benefits of the Barcelona Youth academy(La-Masia).
Players like Jiten Murmu ,Kishan Bag ,Wasim Akram Mollick are promising players who have performed well at the U-19 I-League and one hope that these players can go on to represent India at some stage of their careers. With promising young players at the club, it is essential for East Bengal to a fair chance to these youngsters to show what they are capable of on the big stage.
Written By THT Guest Author Boudhayan Sarbajna