East Bengal, Tottenham Hotspur to face-off in exhibition match

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New Delhi, Apr 2 (UNI) Indian football giants East Bengal will take on English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in an exhibition match in Kolkata on May 18.

''The English club will start their summer tour with China.

But they felt India is a potential market for them and want to explore it. No English club has ever played in south Asia and if things materialise it will be a big occasion,'' East Bengal director, Amit Sen said.

''They selected Kolkata because of the city's broad fan base.

And since Mohun Bagan was playing against Bayern May 27, our date has been tentatively fixed on May 18,'' he added.

The offer to play Tottenham Hotspur was first given to the Indian national team by an agent. But coach Bob Houghton, who has always maintained losing to Tottenham Hotspur by a big margin would have been detrimental to the national team's progress, refused, as the national team would be preparing for the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Cup during that time.

The agent then approached East Bengal, who have shown interest.

But financial hurdles may throw a spanner in the works. In case of such exhibition matches, the host has to pay the visiting team a handsome participation fee. And in this case Tottenham Hotspur is demanding a huge amount.

''For a second rung team like Tottenham Hotspur their participation fee in south-east Asia ranges from 300,000-350,000 pounds. But to play in India they are demanding nearly double this amount,'' Sen said.

''Our sponsors are very interested in hosting the match. And the money is not a factor for them. But they also can't accept any unjustified demands. They are negotiating a fair price.'' The Kolkata giants may miss some of their key players, who will be at the national camp for the SAFF Cup. East Bengal, however, has approached the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to allow them to take players from other clubs to make a strong team.

''We want to have a strong team and give them tough competition.

They will come with their full strength. They will have all the national team players because England has failed to qualify for the Euro. We have approached the AIFF for it and if we can have some good players from other clubs we will name the team as East Bengal Invitational XI,'' Sen said.

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