The auspicious day of Holi, india's all encompassing festival of colours that signals the onset of Spring into the Subcontinent, is a time of revelry that is eclipsed by only Diwali, in terms of sheer passion. The joie de vivre that accompanies the occasion is infectious - people from all strata of society join the celebrations. On the outskirts of Pune however, this Holi will be strikingly pallid.
DSK Shivajians on the exterior may yet be in the thrall of an exhilarating 5-0 win over Mumbai FC in an I-League Maharashtra derby. Behind the scenes though, the tentacles of tumult have stretched deep into what was once a well driven football enterprise.
Goal can reveal that Barry Knowles, a trusted confiant of coach Dave Rogers and his assistant at the Reds has been sacked. It has been confirmed that the Englishman has not been in attendance at any of the I-League matches at the Shree Chhatrapati Balewadi Sports complex, since the team returned from their 3-0 loss to Churchill Brothers, in Goa just a fortnight ago.
Knowles' relationship with the management was said to have been tetchy at best, and it seems there was just an excuse necessary to get him out of the door for many behind the scenes. The departures haven't been limited to the former Bharat FC academy-in-charge. It has also come to light that two Liverpool Academy coaches have left the Loni-based set-up.
A little background may be necessary at this juncture. Initially, the DSK Shivajians - Liverpool Academy had three foreign staff sourced from their relationship with the English club. There were six overseas staff in all at the beginning of this season.
Three served on the DSK Shivajians' senior side, three in the academy set-up. Of the three in the academy, viz. Daniel Reece, Michael Rice and Christopher Ochwat, Reece left in January, while the other two were sacked by the management for reasons still unclear. What has added conundrum to the matter is the coincidental sacking of Knowles and these staff on the same day but for different reasons, as explained to this publication.
When quizzed on the departures after the Aizawl loss, particularly Knowles, Rogers declined to comment and stated, "No comment on that. The lads (media and press relations department) will take of that. It doesn't matter who's on the bench, I'm still in charge."
The situation has strained the coaching resources at the club. Deggie Cardozo, an Indian first team coach who initially held the academy assistant portfolio, has been joined in the daily running of the Academy with the first team's goalkeeping coach Joseph Sidy.
A notable change was visible in the Matchday program of the club before the match on the seventh of March, when John Andrews’ name popped up beside the title of the assistant coach, where Knowles name usually stood ground. Also, Sidy's name had been erased as well. Andrews, before his promotion, was a strength and conditioning coach.
Sources close to Goal have also enlightened the publication on the dearth of arrears handed out to the coaching staff, the players and even the support staff since the beginning of the league in January.
In this regard, the players had been unnerved and sought an immediate clearance of dues. It is believed that Shirish Kulkarni, the patron-in-chief of the club along with the club's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Neel Shah and Rogers debriefed the players on the situation to dismantle tension, in a closed doors meeting. This is believed to have happened just 10 days ago.
In fact, so dire was the situation that it is believed the academy staff actually resorted to going on strike for their salaries. Rogers himself preferred not to comment on the issue of reimbursements, when quizzed, opting not to clearly deny the matter.
As widely reported in the Pune press, the D S Kulkarni conglomerate is allegedly believed to be in throes of financial instability. Recently, a video that did the rounds of social media revealed the Kulkarni himself berating and scolding staff for passing cheques to debtors which weren’t going to be accepted.
“We are going through bad times — things have been tough since my accident. Some people have been knocking at our doors for their money. The fact is if I owe Rs 100 to people, my assets are far over Rs 1,000 (crores). My inventory alone is worth Rs 3,800 Crores, though I don’t have a single readymade unit (in real estate),” lamented the chief of the enterprise, to The Pune Mirror.
It is yet to be understood if the Maratha club's six game winless streak was caused primarily due to these undercurrents. But come the thumping of Mumbai paves way for hope to believe all creases may be seamed over, especially with the business end of the season now well upon the franchise.