BY ATANU MITRA
The day started with Mohammedan Sporting entering the Saltlake Stadium at 7o’clock in the morning, under the leadership of their new head coach Moshood Bola Abdul Aziz and assistant coach Tope Fuja. All the four foreigners of the team were present. The Black and White brigade mostly did physical training and practiced a game of one touch football before indulging themselves in shooting practice in the last half an hour of the session. While Luciano Sobrosa, Tolgay Ozbey and Josimar da Silva all warmed up under the tutelage of the main coach, Penn Orji decided to train with many of the second team players under the supervision of Tope Fuja.
After the practice, Tolgay Ozbey also faced the media for a short interaction. “The coach is very knowledgeable. In Turkey and Australia, the pre-season trainings were so hard that we used to think of quitting football while we worked out. Here, it’s easier for the time being. I am observing that the boys are improving physically and the fitness level is improving day by day. Pre-season sessions are so important to avoid the strains and tears of muscles in the match-days,” he opined.
Mohammedan has recruited four tested foreigners to bolster their squad and has brought in a number of new faces. “We are a new unit. It takes time to organize the teams. The Federation Cup will not be the first tournament of the year and it will be a great advantage for us.”
The Australian striker also revealed how highly he rated Penn Orji. He mentioned, “I have been saying for long that Penn is the best midfielder in India. I have played two seasons with him and if a striker has someone like Penn to get a supply of quality balls, things get a lot easier,” Tolgay signed off.
East Bengal arrived at the stadium after Mohammedan Sporting had finished their share of practice. The Red and Gold squad first had a brief physical training session under Americo Falopa, their newly appointed physical trainer. Chidi Edeh continued his separate program, as he stayed on the sidelines and worked out alone to regain match fitness. Safar Sardar, another player who is carrying an injury, also continued his rehabilitation process.
Ryuji Sueoka and Harmanjyot Singh Khabra were also not match fit and had their legs covered in pieces of crepe bandage. Both of them however took time out to talk to Goal after practice. Khabra informed, “I am going to visit the doctor now. I am improving slowly but yet not match fit. I will play 30-40 minutes of the matches first and then will try to appear in the starting line-up, in the next couple of weeks." Sueoka however informed that he will have to undergo an MRI on Thursday to know the exact intensity of his injury.
East Bengal will play a pre-season match against Tata Football Academy on Thursday morning, while their star defender Uga Okpara is also expected to arrive in Kolkata in the evening. Gurwinder Singh was absent in today's practice after suffering an ankle twist yesterday.
Talking of the other big team from the city of Joy, Mohun Bagan faithful were excited to watch their new signings practicing together in the club ground. One of them being Zakeer Mundampara, the ex-United SC midfielder who had only played 88 minutes in the I-League last season, managing only 3 substitute appearances. Nicolau Borges, the other new signing of the club however has seen a fair share of action last year, as he played 10 times for Dempo SC in I-League, including five starts. Mohun Bagan's fitness trainer, Jonathan Corner guided them in some primary physical exercises in the morning.
The Mohun Bagan players were handed new jerseys on the auspicious occasion of Mohun Bagan day on July 29. The two new players however, got their outfits today. While Zakeer was handed the jersey number 33, Borges will bear the number 20, which Rakesh Masih used to wear for the Mariners in the last five seasons.
Mohun Bagan will leave for a residential camp in Durgapur on Thursday, while their hunt for the fourth foreigner still remains unfinished.