Karim Bencherifa admits to having endured rough weather last season

Sheltering optimism, the coach believes his squad will improve over the season and hopes to bring cheer to fans’ faces soon

Karim Bencherifa admitted that Mohun Bagan faced a tough start to the season, with him having to explain how the impact of circumstances, like financial hindrances and an impounding trophy drought has affected his plans.

“Oh! It was such a season. I learnt a lot from the last season. We did not have much of a success... And that’s something to worry about… As a coach, I would like my team to win trophies… We will give our best shot. Hopefully this time, fans will have something to cheer about,” navigated the gaffer, to The Telegraph in Kolkata.

"I’m preparing for a very tricky season. All the clubs are now talking the same language, since everybody is hit by financial difficulties. On one hand, the clubs don’t have the luxury of going for expensive signings. On the other, we have a very small pool of quality players, which means you can’t flaunt your financial muscle to outbid others and bring a player of your choice on board. Our choice is thus limited and this is a dilemma,” explained Bencherifa, to The Times Of India, bringing to focus the extreme steps taken by clubs to sustain themselves this season, with he himself having to agree to a dip in pay.

To add more salt to wounds, Bencherifa admitted that bitter archrivals, East Bengal are the stronger side on paper this season, as they find themselves stabilised by player retention. “For the last few years they have managed to retain the team… So player-wise, they are in a better position… They also tasted some success… But then football is played on the field,” professed Bencherifa.

“Although I’ve heard of (East Bengal coach) Marcos Falopa, I haven’t had a chance to meet him in the past,” was his take on his immediate adversary and East Bengal coach.

The captain of his side, Odafa Okolie, is expected to link-up with the squad soon and the coach has high expectations of him from the outset, irrespective of the fact that he returns back without having trained for a long time, with the team already into their third week of pre-season training. “Yes, he hasn’t been training with the team. But a rigorous schedule will see him up and running,” stated Bencherifa.

What‘s also taxing for Bencherifa is the lack of importance shown in adding a fourth foreign player to his squad that they so desperately need. When stressed on the issue he dryly replied that “all such issues would be taken care of”, while also elucidating his club were in the process of selecting the right man from a shortlist of 15.

“Both of them are Africans who have played at the highest level of football some seven-eight years ago. We’ll study videos of their recent performances before taking a final call,” said the coach on the two players being microscopically examined.

Bencherifa has no qualms of working with the youngsters in his squad given his track record in India of yielding the best out of them. “I hope I’ll succeed in turning some of these young unknown players into stars. That’s my challenge.”

"I have discussed it with the officials. That’s something we have to address as soon as possible,” was his take on the back room dilemma his side are facing with the goalkeeping coach’s position up for grabs with Hemant Dora having departed.

He also held back his opinion to a certain extent on the new format of the Federation Cup and stated, “Let’s see how the clubs cope up, but it sounds tricky and we are looking forward to it.”

His take on foreign coaches at four of the Kolkata clubs was ever so witty by saying, “You can call me half-Indian and so, count me out of the list,” intending his intention not to be compared to any of them.

“I always got feedbacks from the assistant coach and the players. We have had a good pre-season training. The players look in good shape. I am more than happy with the way Mridul (Bannerjee) went about his job,” concluded Bencherifa.


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