Odafa Okolie defends coach Karim Bencherifa from criticism

The Mariners’ Nigerian hitman has bellowed a fighting call ahead of Pune FC’s visit to the Salt Lake Stadium, Manish Bhargav will miss the all-important tie...
As Mohun Bagan gear up to tackle the impeding challenge of Pune FC, who are in the city of Kolkata for their I-League round 16 encounter, Okolie Odafa has impressed upon his team-mates on the significance of this tie and what it means for their under-pressure Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa.

"I am feeling much better and will definitely be playing against Pune FC. In this difficult situation, as the captain of the side, I cannot afford to skip this important game. After recovering from the injury, it takes time for a player to get his full form. I am trying my best in all the games and I am sure that I will be back to my very best soon," Odafa told the club's official website.

The day before had seen Odafa practice extensively with the physio Soumya Bhattacharya as he continues to recover from an injury that has wrecked his preparations for the 2013-14 season. After sitting out against Calcutta Football League (CFL) opponents Aryan, Odafa explained, "We had a very good game against Aryan and now we will have to carry this winning momentum in the I-league also."

On the topic of the coach, who continues to face constant strictures from not just the fans but also the team management, Odafa was very vocal in voicing his support for Bencherifa. “Why coach alone should be responsible? We all are equally responsible. We will work together and try to bring success in the upcoming Federation Cup. The main problem with our performance this year is that we are not able to score goals, though we are creating many scoring opportunities in almost all the games."

Bagan, now in 10th know this is the last chance for them to score three more points on the table and appease the home fans before the I-League breaks for winter. The club’s personnel will be happy to know that they have the league’s second best defensive record, conceding just 14 goals in 14 games, while they have the worst striking record with only 11 goals in the competition.

Keeping this in mind, Odafa elucidated the pressure on his team, not just himself to score in this vital game. "I am aware of the sentiment of many fans in Kolkata. If I score, they will be happy and shout 'Odafa, Odafa', but if I don't score, they will shout 'Go back Odafa'".

Meanwhile, the Kolkata outfit have been dealt another significant blow after it was revealed that Manish Bhargav will miss the action against Pune FC after suffering a foot injury in the training session at the Barasat stadium. He has started the last three I-League games and initial injury scans have revealed that he could be sidelined for an extended period of time.


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