East Bengal FC fans would have felt like the end of the world after seeing their team lose the Durand Cup final to their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant by a narrow 0-1 margin on Sunday at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata.

The defeat would have pricked even more after the Mariners played more than one-third of the game with ten men. The win for their arch-rivals also meant Mohun Bagan Super Giant edged ahead of East Bengal FC to become the most successful team in Durand Cup history with 17 titles.

For the Red and Gold brigade, it would have felt like a bad dream that refused to end.

But a look at the bigger picture will tell you that all is not that gloomy in the Red and Gold half of Kolkata. In fact, things have just started to brighten up.

It will be difficult for East Bengal FC supporters to come to terms with this fact in the immediate aftermath of this bitter defeat to their rivals, but as the emotions settle down, they will look back at their Durand Cup campaign with fondness.

They reached their first Durand Cup final since 2004, and although in ended in defeat, it sets them up well for the Indian Super League (ISL) season ahead, a league in which they have struggled in the last three seasons.

But the Durand Cup campaign will give East Bengal FC fans plenty of optimism not just because of the results, but also for their performances. Cuadrat feels reaching the final will help his team a lot more and get closer to their dream of winning the ISL.

“We have been three years in ISL and we have been not competing well. Not getting nothing else than the ninth place and Mohun Bagan SG also arrived three years ago. They have been reaching the finals and semi-finals in the first two editions but they got out in the semi-final and only last season did they become champions in ISL and now champions of the Durand Cup,” Cuadrat said after the game.

“What I mean is that it is important to reach the finals as they are a learning process. Mohun Bagan lost the final in 2020 and for sure it helped them to learn. For us, it has to be the same and this is a message to East Bengal (FC) supporters,” he added.

New signings hit the ground running

The Kolkata Giants have invested well in the transfer market and the Durand Cup showed how their investment is already bearing fruit. New signings Nandhakumar Sekar, Javier Siverio, Jordan Elsey, Saul Crespo, Borja Herrera and Harmanjot Singh Khabra performed impeccably.

There are already signs of Carles Cuadrat building chemistry between his old and new players and the Red and Gold Brigade have looked like one cohesive unit, something that hasn’t always been the case since they joined the ISL.

The comeback in the semi-final against NorthEast United FC after being 0-2 down to win it on penalties or the group stage victory in the Kolkata derby over Mohun Bagan Super Giant seemed like performances of a team of players that thrived in each other’s presence.

While there may be more setbacks in their path, but East Bengal FC’s Durand Cup campaign definitely showed the team can challenge for top spots in the league.

“The last medal the club received was in 2018 it was against Bengaluru and the last champion trophy was in 2012. It was a dark moment in the history of the club and I know how difficult it is for supporters, club, investors, and people working in the club because we are losing against our big opponents. But, I think we have to be positive and understand that any project takes time,” he said.

East Bengal FC are just at the start of a new era and have made a great beginning by reaching the final of the Durand Cup. There are signs that the good days might be about to return to the Red and Golden half of Kolkata even though they are preceded by dark days like that on Sunday. After all, every cloud has a silver lining.