East Bengal, the traditional powerhouse of Indian football and an I-League club, has done what cash-rich Indian Super League clubs could not do so far. The Bengal outfit on Wednesday signed a current World Cupper to play for its team in the upcoming I-League -- a first in the history of Indian football.
With a new investor -- Quess Crop –- by its side, East Bengal has signed Costa Rican World Cup star Johnny Acosta Zamora, a 34-year-old defender, who has represented the national team in two World Cups, including the ongoing one in Russia. He was also a member of the Costa Rica squad at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“East Bengal FC is one of the greatest clubs in India. I convey my best to my new club. My aim is to encourage the other Indian footballers and guide them and at the same time win silverware for East Bengal FC,” Acosta said after signing the contract.
In March 2011, Acosta made his international debut in a friendly against Argentina. He played at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2011 Copa America. Acosta scored his first international goal on September 6, 2013 in a 3–1 World Cup qualifier victory over the US in San Jose.
He made his World Cup debut at Brazil in 2014, coming in as a substitute in the Round of 16 match against Greece. Acosta was included in the first XI in the quarterfinal against the Netherlands, which Costa Rica lost 3-4 in tiebreaker after both teams failed to score in the regulation period. He was regular in the 2018 World Cup, starting all the three of Costa Rica’s group matches, including the tie against Brazil. The 34-year-old defender has 69 international caps to his name and has scored two goals. Acosta, who has mainly played in his homeland since turning professional in 2004, last played for Rionegro Aguila in the Colombian league before moving to East Bengal. In 2010, Acosta had joined Costa Rican club Alajuelense with whom he won three league titles.
When contacted, Debabrata Sarkar, executive committee member at East Bengal Club, said, “We have always tried to bring in the best foreign players within our limits. That is the tradition of our club. In Acosta, we have found a player who is capable of fulfilling the dreams of our fans.”