Last night at Kolkata's Saltlake Stadium Bengal kept their 100% home record intact. Whenever West Bengal has hosted the Santosh Trophy, they have also won the national state championships and it will also remain this way until the next edition is hosted by the IFA (West Bengal). In the final of the 64th edition of the tournament West Bengal beat Punjab 2-1 to win a record 30th title.
And it was an important victory for Bengal. Bengal football had to wait 11 long years for their 30th title to finally come their way, but now Bengal has re-established itself as state champions of India. The title was an important one for Bengal as peopled questioned if the state was still at the pinnacle of Indian football as the state couldn't win the Santosh Trophy for over a decade while their top clubs haven't won the National Football League/I-League title in years.
Surely not all is well with Bengal football, but hopefully this will be an important step in revitalising football in the state in which the beautiful game first came to life in India. And hopefully this win will not blind officials and administrators in Bengal from what ails football development to really help the sport grow and become more professional on all levels.
The hero of the day for Bengal was Chirag United captain Denson Devadas scoring both the goals for the champions. The Keralite midfielder has been a vital player for his club and adopted state over the last couple of years, and he once more proved it in the finals. Coming to the match, Punjab had taken the lead on the half hour mark through inform striker Balwant Singh, before Denson equalised in injury time of the first half. And then Denson scored the winner 12 minutes from time with a beautiful left-footer to give Bengal the title.
And after winning the title cash rewards have been pouring in for the victorious side. Besides getting the Rs. 500,000 prize money for winning the trophy, the parent body Indian Football Association (West Bengal) will give the team Rs 200,000; the West Bengal state sports minister Kanti Ganguly has announced a cash award of Rs. 500,000; while also I-League side Chirag United SC has announced a cash award of Rs. 500,000 and Bengal sponsors Tower Group has pledged to gift the winning team a trip to Southeast Asia. More financial rewards are likely to pour in in the coming days.
My heartiest congratulations to Shabbirda, the boys and the whole squad!