Once considered the powerhouse of Indian football, Bengal has failed to produce quality players in recent times and former India skipper Bhaskar Ganguly feels that the lack of match experience is not helping local talent in the state.
Speaking to IANS, Ganguly — regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers to play for India — said that it was indeed sad that giants like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan were being defeated by new teams like Gokulam FC — something which was unthinkable even in the last decade.
“Since these boys are not getting to play matches, they are taking part in these one-day or two-day local tournaments and let me tell you, these short tournaments in West Bengal are harming the players most,” he said.
Asked why Bengal was failing to produce stars, Ganguly said: “Where is the football in Kolkata? During our days, we initially used to play at the district level and our aim was to play in Kolkata. Now, where is the football in Kolkata? In the premier league each club plays at the best 10 to 12 matches.
“After these 10 to 12 matches, apart from East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, players from other clubs do not get any exposure as there are hardly any tournaments. If you do not give these boys any exposure, if they don’t get to play matches, how will they grow?”
Going back to his era, Ganguly added: “Once we were in the Kolkata circuit, we had the Kolkata League, Rovers Cup, Durand Cup and DCM Trophy. Apart from these tournaments, we played for our state team in Santosh Trophy and represented India. Where are the matches now?”
Ganguly further feels that the emotion attached with playing the beautiful game in the city during his time was much more intense as compared to now.
“Even the outstation players who came during those days, had the feelings for the club they represented. We would play for clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan or Mohammedan Sporting with a sense of responsibility. Now, they just come and play to earn money,” he said.
The former goalkeeper also feels that Bengal needs icons to rejuvenate the youth and attract them to the game.
“The handful of players that are coming up are being netted by the cash-rich Indian Super League (ISL) teams where they are losing ways in the melee of foreign players. And, tell me how many people watch ISL matches? Even today, an East Bengal versus Mohan Bagan match attracts 50,000 plus crowd,” he said adding that the traditional clubs cannot match cash rich league outfits.
“Equals can fight, but a fight is not possible when there is disparity. The traditional clubs have their own limitations. These clubs just cannot go and do whatever they want unlike ownership-based ISL clubs,” Ganguly pointed.