Manchester:East Bengal's under-15 team returned from the Nike Manchester United Premier Cup with a word of praise from English legend Sir Bobby Charlton.
The team fnished 18th in the 20-team event, ahead of Assumption College Thonburi which had topped the South East Asia region finals.
The Kolkata outfit snapped its string of four defeats in the MUPC with their lone win against Bukit Jalil Sports School, Malaysia and then went down in penalty shootout to Austrian Wien.
Buttonholed for his view on East Bengal, Charlton pointed out that East Bengal had done better than Mohun Bagan's last place finish in 2006 and patted the boys for their grit.
"This time, this team from India did little better than the team we saw last year. I know short stature and frail physique are major handicaps for them but it was still good to see them come and compete at this level and do actually better," the English legend said.
In the MUPC closing ceremony at University of Manchester's Armitage Centre too, Charlton surprised the gathering when he singled out East Bengal for special praise.
"I saw a few matches, including one featuring this Indian side which has come all the way from West Bengal. They had certain handicaps but what struck me was their stomach for fight, which was astounding. It was really impressive to see how eager they were for a fight," Charlton said.
One of the survivors of the 1958 Munich air disaster, Charlton himself personified guts and gumption in his playing days.
He advised the East Bengal team to practice hard what they had learnt during the tournament and hoped that some of the players would make it big some day.