East Bengal enthral fans with Bollywood song and dance show

Kolkata: For once, East Bengal mesmerised their supporters without scoring goals but with dance and songs as a Bollywood contingent led by Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha took the centrestage at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Saturday in the 94-year-old club`s pre-centenary celebrations in the run up to 2020.

Akshay Kumar made a grand entry in the last-half but the 25,000-plus crowd did not mind as the Bollywood `Khiladi` threw the stadium into a tizzy with his super action-packed performance.

It was not only Bollywood who stole the show. From cricket icon Sourav Ganguly to legendary footballer P K Banerjee to thespian Soumitra Chatterjee, people from all walks of life were present in the four-hour programme.

The former India captain, Ganguly, said East Bengal along with Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting form the intrinsic part of the Indian football.

"East Bengal along with Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, the `Big Three` form an integral part of Indian football," he said.

East Bengal also felicitated Bengal`s biggest cricket icon Ganguly who was given a golden boot and ball by club captain Hossain.

"For a cricketer to speak at a football programme is a completely different experience. I don`t know why am I feted among the footballing greats. I really felt proud to be here. A big thank you for inviting me here," Ganguly said.

Wishing luck to East Bengal in the run up to 2020, Ganguly said: "My greetings to East Bengal. My wishes to their all endeavors. Hope after six years, the club will reach greater heights."

Ganguly also feted the 1975 Kolkata League winning side coached by P K Banerjee that also had Subhas Bhowmick, now Churchill Brothers coach, as an integral member.

"I was only three years old when 1975 team members won Kolkata League for a record six successive time. I remember watching East Bengal play from gallery with Membership card."

Music composer and local `boy` Pritam and Indian singer Anushka Manchanda warmed up the proceedings charting out Bollywood bluckbusters before the duo of Akshay-Sonakshi enthralled the 25,000-odd with an action packed performance.

Earlier, in his welcome address, East Bengal secretary Kalyan Majumdar highlighted East Bengal`s rise to begin the programme formally around 5.45pm.

"In 1920, the club was born with an aim to make India`s talents stand out from the Britishers. Now, East Bengal is the only team from India to come within top 500 FIFA clubs. Now taking the club to top 100 is our next target."

Santo Mitra, the 1970 Shield winning captain, lighted the torch and handed it to present skipper Mehtab Hossain to begin the programme.

More than three hours after it was kicked off, latest Bollywood sensation Sonakshi made her grand entry when she made an aerial entry on to the stage with firecrackers lighting up the evening.

The best was left for the last when Akshay Kumar finally made a spectacular entry riding a horse.

East Bengal will celebrate every year in the build up to their century completion in 2020 as Bengal sports minister Madan Mitra reiterated his promise of bringing an exceptionally big club next year.

"I make this promise in front of you all to bring a club which will be the biggest ever to play here," Mitra said.

Lavishing praise on East Bengal, Mitra added: "I am a supporter of a team that wins trophy for us. And here, it's East Bengal."

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