Indian Super League side SC East Bengal have announced the retention of Raju Gaikwad besides the signing of Hira Mondal and Joyner Lourenco.
While Hira Mondal returns to East Bengal from Mohammedan Sporting, Joyner Lourenco joins the red and gold from Jamshedpur FC.
Centre-back Gaikwad returned to East Bengal in the January transfer window, playing seven matches for the red and gold brigade. Mumbai-born, Gaikwad, known for his long throws, expressed his delight at the prospect of donning the East Bengal jersey again. He was an integral part of East Bengal between 2011-2015, having also featured for FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC and Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League.
“No matter how many years you spend at East Bengal, it is always a great feeling donning the red and gold jersey. I know what this club means to the fans and Indian football and I look forward to another season ahead,” said Gaikwad, who has 23 India caps to his name.
“I loved working with the gaffer (Robbie Fowler) last time around and I am thrilled to play under him again. We will try our best to do well as a unit and make the fans happy. They have been right behind us even when times were tough, and I feel they deserve it the most,” he added.
Gaikwad began his career at the Tata Football Academy and went on to play for Pailan Arrows before joining East Bengal in 2011. Gaikwad had a successful spell at East Bengal, winning the Federation Cup, Calcutta Football League and the IFA Shield besides also reaching the AFC Cup semifinals in the 2013/14 season.
A full-back who loves to bomb forward, Hira Mondal made 14 appearances for Mohammedan Sporting last season in the I-League, scoring twice and providing one assist.
Hira Mondal was a rock at the back for Mohammedan Sporting, showing composure on the ball and aggression off it. Stockily built, the Kolkata-based footballer became one of the hottest prospects in the I-League on the back of some consistent performances.
“It is a dream come true for any footballer to don the East Bengal jersey. Being from Kolkata, it is all the more special for me. I have to words to express how happy I am. I was over the moon when I got the offer,” Mondal said after completing formalities. “I can’t wait for the season to start. It is always an honour to play in the top league of the country. But I cannot let my emotions get the better of me. I know I have a job to do and what the fans expect from me. It is a big opportunity for me, and I want to make the most of it,” he added.
Hira Mondal was with East Bengal for the 2018-19 season. He has also turned out for city-based clubs Rainbow SC, Tollygunge Agragami and Peerless SC, starting his career with Calcutta Port Trust in 2015. Mondal has also represented Bengal in the Santosh Trophy.
Joyner Lourenco, 29, is joining SC East Bengal from fellow Indian Super League side Jamshedpur FC where he played five matches last season.
“It is always a proud feeling to play for a big club like SC East Bengal. It is a hundred-year-old club and has a rich history. The fans are so passionate and that adds to the charm. It is a big challenge for me, and one that I am looking forward to,” Joyner Lourenco said after putting pen to paper for the Red-and-Gold Brigade.
“I can’t wait to put on the red and gold shirt and take the field. I am ready to give my best in training every day and learn so much from Robbie Fowler (head coach). He is such a legend and his guidance will only help me get better as a footballer on and off the field,” said the Goa-born Joyner Lourenco.
Joyner Lourenco began his career with local club Goa Velha SC before joining I-League side Sporting Clube de Goa in 2010. He spent the 2017-18 ISL season with Bengaluru FC and was roped in by Mumbai City FC the following term. Joyner had a fruitful campaign with the current ISL champions and played 10 matches during their run to the semifinals. With Jamshedpur FC in the 2019-20 season, Lourenco played 10 matches and bagged one assist.