East Bengal celebrated its 102nd foundation day by according its highest decoration of ‘Bharat Gaurav’ to tennis great Leander Paes and former India women’s cricket captain Jhulan Goswami at a glittering awards ceremony here on Monday.
The club also felicitated its stalwarts and former captains Gautam Sarkar and Swapan Sengupta with lifetime achievement awards.
The celebration became important for East Bengal fans as the programme was attended by two directors — Aditya Agarwal and Manish Goenka – of the club’s new investor, the Emami Group. The two, who were also felicitated by the club, assured the fans that they will do everything to help the club do well in the upcoming season.
The group will be signing the official agreement with the East Bengal club on Tuesday.
Accepting the award, Leander remembered the time of his growing up in the city when he would be visiting the East Bengal and Mohun Bagan — “the two notable addresses of Kolkata’s sporting glory” — to see his father, Olympian Vece Paes, play field hockey.
The senior Paes was present on the stage to acknowledge his son’s fond memories of the great sporting institutions of the city. After retiring from hockey, Vece Paes had a long relationship with East Bengal as the doctor and physio of the club’s senior team.
“I grew up savouring the great legacy of sport represented by names like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and the honour accorded to me by East Bengal makes the bond with the city even stronger,” Leander said after accepting the award.
Jhulan Goswami called herself a big East Bengal fan and said the award was a big acknowledgement of what she achieved as a cricketer.