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The management of the Kolkata club has failed to sort off-field issues and should be held partially guilty for the club's torrid times...

 Atanu Mitra
 COMMENT | I-League
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A club which was rarely in the news for any off-field issues for the past three seasons is suddenly making headlines with several controversies coming to the fore. The resultant clamour notwithstanding, the casual dealing of the whole situation by the Red and Gold officials has added to the furore.

Joining in the melee, Armando Colaco, the East Bengal gaffer has alleged that his players have prioritized personal gains over the good of the club, after a training session in the club grounds on Wednesday.

“In Kolkata, the problem is every player thinks of individual success, but not about the team,” the most successful coach in the I-League era said during a press briefing.

With so many high-profile Indian players on board there was always a chance of ego clashes cropping up and it was Trevor James Morgan’s impeccable man management skills that kept matters getting out of hand.

Dressing room issues have been creeping up ever since Morgan left the hot-seat and his successor Marcos Falopa was the first casualty. The Brazilian wanted the club to play more fluidly and did away with the three-man defensive midfield that Morgan preferred. His all out attack approach didn’t work as many players were played out of position which further increased tension at the club. Falopa would often get incensed when Morgan's name was mentioned and understandably so as he wanted the players to follow his instructions and play accordingly.

Poor team spirit combined with results not going their way led to Falopa being fired ‘amicably’. The officials of the club have shown little alacrity in solving the issues  plaguing the team and their apparent nonchalance about the growing unrest among the squad members has come back to bite them.

Uga Okpara, the pillar of the Red and Gold defense for the last four-and-a-half years or so, allegedly went back to Nigeria midway into the season without taking prior permission from the club. Though the East Bengal management at first seemed to be taking a strong stand against Uga’s absence, they finally caved in and the player was part of the squad in the Kolkata derby despite having arrived only a couple of days prior to the kick-off.

Why the club officials chose not to take any action against the Nigerian remains up in the air? If Jose Mourinho can drop an important player like Eden Hazard for not turning up for training ahead of the crucial Champions League group stage match against Schalke, why can’t the same be done at East Bengal?

On the day of the game, Chidi Edeh opted to stay out of the crucial tie by choosing to send a text message to coach Armando Colaco informing him about not having recovered in time. This, coupled with the team’s lacklustre performance in the match has left Colaco fuming.

“We are playing well in the first half, but failing to maintain that tempo in the second. This is because there’s no understanding among the players. They are not encouraging each other,” the coach vented his despair.

                                                Get out of Morgan era, I'm in-charge of East Bengal

East Bengal have been winners in the summer transfer window as they have the best squad on paper. But due to several internal issues cropping up and none taking charge to resolve them, the club has lost the plot.

With a lucrative transfer window beckoning, it’s very natural that out-of-favour players will be desperate to have their share of first team action, but the coach and the officials have to ensure that the desperation is used as a positive force to drive the team forward in the business end of the season, rather than playing spoilsport to their own ambitions by adding to the ever-growing sense of frustration within the squad.

It must be noted that Mohun Bagan, for all their problems, haven’t washed their dirty linen in public as the players and the coach have backed each other on several occasions. Except for an incident where Katsumi Yusa’s misbehavior saw the training being cancelled and eventually the Japanese had to issue an apology.

However in East Bengal’s case, things have been out in the media. Whether it is from the brand of football Colaco wants the team to play in to the players being selfish. It is certainly understandable that most players still prefer the formation and format Morgan had as they were comfortable in it and brought them results.

Now whether East Bengal brought in Colaco to change the style of play or just fetch them results is something which the officials need to be clear about. If they want him to play an attractive brand of football, they must come out and back Colaco in such dire times so that the players understand that they have no option but to cooperate with their coach.

Since most East Bengal officials have remained mum so far, there is a lack of direction at the club which is hurting the squad and the fans alike.

The sooner the issues are ironed out, the better it is for the Red and Gold faithful.

Do you think East Bengal officials must back Colaco and sort out the dressing room issues? Let us know what you think.


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