India as the world knows is a ‘cricket loving country’ but slowly with the rise of other professional leagues, sports like football is growing. Recently Indian football witnessed the rise of the national team in FIFA ranking after some good display of football in international arena for the past few years. Indian club Bengaluru FC made a huge impact when they played their first AFC Cup Finals in 2016. Though, people are aware of these immense successes but little did everyone knew that the seed of success was planted in 2003 at Jakarta by a Kolkata club.
After having won the 2002 National Football League for the second time East Bengal FC was riding a winning streak under the heroic performance of players like Bhaichung Bhutia, Mike Okoro, Suley Musah and Douglas Da Silva. Little did anyone assumed, a formal invitation landed to the club tent from Petrokimia Putra who was the Indonesian League champion. The ASEAN Cup was held between all the league champions of South East Asian countires, where the famous Thai side Bec Tero Sasana who played their AFC Champions League final days before, was also invited.
Even before the tournament started critics as well as the fans shook off any chances of East Bengal to win the tournament as Bec Tero Sasana was the clear favourite to lift the trophy. International tournaments were nothing less than a ‘slaughter house’ for Indian clubs back in those days, the Indian clubs lacked the funds, infrastructure and qualities to compete with their international counterparts. But hard customer of Subhas Bhowmick’s repute didn’t lose hope, as he had the side which is still now regarded as one of the greatest football team ever assembled in Indian club football till date. For the first time the nation saw an Indian club going through it’s pre- tournament preparation in a five star hotel in Kolkata and along with a South African physical trainer Kevin Jackson. It was a ‘never seen before’ scene in Indian football where a club was getting their pre-tournament preparation by staying in a five star hotel and training under a foreign physicial trainer.
The tournament began on 13th July 2003, and East Bengal shared the group with the favourites Bec Tero Sasana and Philiphines Army, the first match that East Bengal faced in the tournament was against Bec Tero Sasana and faced the music after losing against the favourites with the heroic performance of Therdsak Chaiman who scored the winning goal at the 85th minute and was regarded as one of the best players in Asia back then.