Bhutia: Good to see both East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan in the Hero ISL

Ahead of the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season, East Bengal FC were announced as the 11th club in the league on Sunday. Club legend Bhaichung Bhutia expressed his delight at seeing both of Kolkata’s biggest clubs in the Hero ISL but urged fans to manage their expectations when it comes to East Bengal’s initial years in India’s top football division.

“It’s good to see both East Bengal and (ATK) Mohun Bagan in the ISL. It’s going to bring a lot of value, passion. The competition and the quality of the league is going to be much higher now. From the fans point of view, everyone was looking at playing the ISL this year. That has been achieved. Obviously, there is going to be a challenge in terms of building the team. We should not really judge the team’s performance this year,” Bhutia said in an interview with the Press Trust of India.

READ: ‘Welcome to Hero ISL’, Twitter reacts to East Bengal joining India’s top-flight football league

However, the former Blue Tigers skipper believes that good things lie ahead for the Kolkata giants as the East Bengal project is a long-term one. “All good Indian players have got long-term contracts. To build a team is going to take time because no player would be available in the market right now. East Bengal will have to build long-term. They will have to develop players,” Bhutia said.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect about East Bengal’s inclusion is that the Kolkata derby will now be played in the Hero ISL. With ATK Mohun Bagan FC and East Bengal both based in Kolkata, this is also the first time that the Hero ISL will have two clubs from the same city.

Recollecting his Kolkata derby days with East Bengal, Bhutia said, “Derby is a different ball game. I think East Bengal should do well. The motivation and passion for a derby is at a different level, whatever may be the tournament. Emotions just soar up.”

“The Kolkata derby is totally a game of nerves. If the best players can’t keep their nerves, they can’t perform. It’s got a lot to do with the nerves and depends on who can take the pressure well on that given day. Anything can happen,” the Indian legend concluded.

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