East Bengal to honour Kapil Dev and host ceremonial farewell for Bhutia

India’s first World Cup-winning cricket captain Kapil Dev will be conferred East Bengal’s highest honour, Bharat Gaurav, during its Foundation Day on August 1.

The red-and-gold also plans to host a ceremonial farewell for the iconic Bhaichung Bhutia in the run up to the club’s centenary celebrations next year. The former India captain will once again be seen in action, eight years after he last donned the blue jersey in the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.

One of the country’s greatest all-rounders, Kapil had signed for East Bengal on June 22, 1992, and played for 27 minutes six days later, as a substitute striker in an exhibition match versus Mohun Bagan.

Announcing this series of programmes, EB executive committee member Debabrata Sarkar said Bhutia would also formally stop wearing the red-and-gold jersey, but the match will be decided by coach Alejandro Menendez.

“Bhutia has announced his retirement from international football but not from club football. In the centenary year of East Bengal, he has expressed his desire to play for five minutes and announce his retirement from club football,” Sarkar told reporters here, with Bhutia by his side.

A knee injury had abandoned Bhutia’s plan to retire from his former club in 2015.

“I came here from Sikkim as a 17-year-old and I cried when I left behind my family. But I got a bigger family here and never became home sick. Other than Mohun Bagan, no other club has made so much contribution to Indian football,” the ‘Sikkimese Sniper’ said thanking the club.

Bhutia picked EB’s Federation Cup semi-final win over Mohun Bagan in 1997, in which he scored a hat-trick, and the overwhelming reception after winning the ASEAN Cup in Indonesia in 2003, as his two “unforgettable moments” of his career at East Bengal.

Bhutia would also be honoured with “identifying and nurturing the icon’ award, while former India captains, Manoranjan Bhttacharya and Bhaskar Ganguly, will be given Lifetime Achievement awards.

The club will also honour legendary P K Banerjee with the ‘Coach of coaches’ award, while Laldanmawia Ralte will get ‘Best Footballer of the Year’ award on August 1.