Several stalwarts have turned out for East Bengal in their 100 years, helping the club win a record 39 Calcutta Football League (CFL) titles, three National Football Leagues (NFL), eight Federation Cups, and international trophies at the Wai Wai Cup in 1993, the San Miguel Cup in 2004 (both in Kathmandu) and the ASEAN Club Cup in Jakarta in 2003.
Zeroing in on the best XI across a 100 years, as one would expect, is an onerous task. There were greats that would have walked into the squad, but have had to miss out. We have tried to accommodate some of them among the reserves.
GK - Peter Thangaraj
Hyderabad-born Thangaraj was voted Asia's best goalkeeper in 1958, played for East Bengal between 1965 and 1971, and captained the club in 1969. He was in goal for East Bengal's IFA Shield final win against PAS Club, Iran in 1970, and was also part of the Indian team at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, besides featuring in the 1962 Asian Games win.
RB - Sudhir Karmakar
Possibly India's best ever in this position, Karmakar played for East Bengal between 1969 and 1976, and then again from 1980 to 1982. An Asian Games bronze medallist, Karmakar was club captain in 1972, when East Bengal didn't concede a single goal through the CFL. They also won four other trophies -- IFA Shield, Durand Cup, Bordoloi Trophy and the Rovers Cup (joint winners with Mohun Bagan). Karmakar also featured in three famous victories against overseas teams -- PAS Club (Iran), Pyongyang City and Dok Ro Gang (both from North Korea).
CB - Arun Ghosh
Former India captain Ghosh played for East Bengal between 1960 and 1962, bookended by his appearances for India at the Rome Olympics and the victorious Asian Games team of 1962. His time at East Bengal is remembered for two outstanding individual performances, against Mohammedan Sporting in the 1960 DCM Trophy final, and in the second leg of the Kolkata derby in 1961.
CB - Manoranjan Bhattacharya
A long-standing player at the club, Bhattacharya's 13 years at the club starting 1977 included the 1981 season as club captain. He was an integral part of India's team at the 1982 Asian Games, where they lost a narrow quarterfinal to Saudi Arabia, and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of a powerful Argentina team at the 1984 Nehru Cup.
LB - Syed Nayeemuddin
Nayeem, a versatile player who could play in midfield and even up front, had three seasons in East Bengal -- 1966, 1967 and 1970. In 1970, he featured in the treble-winning team (CFL, IFA Shield and Durand Cup) and also starred in the win against PAS Club. He was the captain when India won bronze at the Asian Games that year, their last podium finish.
CM - Ahmed Khan
Blessed with wonderful ball control, Ahmed Khan was part of East Bengal between 1949 and 1959, and also played for India at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, besides featuring in the Asian Games gold winning team in 1951. Alongside Apparao, Venkatesh, Saleh and Dhanaraj, he formed what was called the Panch Pandavas in the East Bengal lineup between 1949 and 1953, winning 11 titles around the country and scoring 260 out of 347 goals netted by the club during those seasons.
RCM - Majid Bishkar
An unused substitute in Iran's 1978 World Cup squad, Bishkar had two successful seasons with East Bengal in 1980 and 1981. His goal against Mohammedan Sporting during the Rovers Cup final in 1980 is considered among the best seen in a domestic football match.
LCM - Sudip Chatterjee
A former India captain, Chatterjee was part of East Bengal between 1984 and 1987, and rejoined them for the 1990 season. That year, he was a pivotal part of the triple triumphs -- IFA Shield, Durand Cup and Rovers Cup.
RW - Ranti Martins
Nigerian striker Martins is one of the most prolific goalscorers in Indian domestic football, with most of his goals having come in the colours of Goan side Dempo, during their most productive years. Martins came to East Bengal for two seasons, between 2014 and 2016, and ended with the I-League Golden Boot in both seasons of the national league.
CF - Bhaichung Bhutia
Bhutia, who first played for East Bengal in 1993 at the age of 16, finished with the club record of 148 goals by the time he played his last match for them in 2010-11. His 49 goals for them in the NFL/I-League are also the most by one Indian for a single club. The first Indian to earn 100 caps for the country, Bhutia had several spells with the club and even wished to retire in East Bengal colours, but couldn't bring his fitness up to speed to make that happen.
LW - Tulsidas Balaram
An opportunistic goal poacher, Balaram was the complete footballer, adept at both attack and defence. For the national team, he forged a devastating strike partnership with Chuni Goswami and PK Banerjee in SA Rahim's 4-2-4 formation, featuring at two Olympics (1956 and 1960) and the Asian Games champions of 1962. He played for East Bengal between 1957 and 1962, and in fact was the fastest to get to 100 goals, finishing with 104.
Coach - PK Banerjee
One of India's greatest footballers, Banerjee also enjoyed his best results as coach of East Bengal. His first stint with them made them a force to reckon with in the 1970s, and he also masterminded a famous 4-1 win against Mohun Bagan in the Federation Cup semi-final of 1997, where Bhutia became the scorer of the first derby hat-trick in history.
Goalkeeper: Subrata Paul
Defenders: Byomkesh Bose, Suley Musah (Ghana), Monem 'Munna' (Bangladesh)
Midfielders: Prasanta Sinha, Douglas da Silva (Brazil), Parimal Dey
Forwards: Chima Okorie (Nigeria), P Venkatesh, Sunil Chhetri
(Gautam Roy is a football historian and statistician)