Salgaocar coach Karim Bencherifa: Indian clubs cannot compete with West Asia

The 44-year-old tactician voiced his opinion against having to play in the Asian competition during the I-League season end...
Salgaocar Sports Club coach Karim Bencherifa claimed that it wasn't the right time to play in the AFC Cup competition amidst the transfer rumours when the I-League season is close to completion in India.

"We all know that there are around three weeks until the [I-League] season finishes and I think it's not the right time to have such a competition," he said.

"The football season comes to an end at this time of the year there are a lot of transfer rumours in India. I do not know if the AFC Cup can be shifted to around January but may be the I-League could end a bit later. We need to change the calendar a bit."

"Also the fact that most of the Asian teams are playing the AFC Cup either at the start of their season and somewhere in the middle. So while my Rocus Lamare is a tired man towards the end of the season, their players are quite fresh."

"It is very difficult for an Indian club to compete in such conditions. But if Indian football grows the whole world will be happy as India is a very big country with a lot of people. So maybe we need to look into this aspect," he added.

The Moroccan also highlighted that there is a difference when Indian teams play against clubs from West Asia and to those from the eastern region. However East Bengal who were grouped along with clubs from the East Asian clubs last season failed to light up the competition as they could only garner a mere three points from their stipulated six matches.

"There are the Middle-East teams from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan Jordan, Iraq and those from the  East like Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam. Indian clubs can compete against the East as we can match them physically and tactically."

"Indian clubs should be placed in the East group where we have better chances of moving forward from the group stage like how we saw Dempo doing a few years back and fans will also not disappointed with their teams losing out in the first round itself."

Salgaocar SC's hopes of making it to the next stage of the AFC Cup are slim after the I-League champions went down to a 1-2 defeat to Al Wehdat on Tuesday evening as they are placed at the bottom of the group D with just a point to show from four matches.

The Goan team's coach however was happy with the performance of his boys after playing against the Jordanian side who beat them 5-0 in the away leg.

"There were a few important things that I mentioned before the game - that we didn't play upto our potential in the first game [against Al Wehdat]," stated Bencherifa.

"The level that we played on Tuesday even with so many players absent was what we are capable of. The Salgaocar players were amazing and showed a lot of character."

"I also spoke of the need to punch above our weight and our team (Salgaocar) did that besides lack of physicality and experience."

Talking about the opponents, he said, "The way they (Al Wehdat) handled the match showed a lot of experience which you don't get in one day.

Karim Bencherifa was however satisfied with his Salgaocar side and conveyed "big thanks" to his players who he claimed played "beautiful football."

"Take nothing away from Salgaocar who were the better side [than Al Wehdat] in many departments like energy, good crosses, side flanks and speed.

"I think we played beautiful football but unfortunately it was not enough. We had many good moves but no target man to finish the job.

"I would like to convey big thanks to the [Salgaocar] players," he said and went on to name a few. "Beevan [D'Mello], Augustin [Fernandes] and Rahul [Kumar] showed that they can be counted in the I-League."

Salgaocar, who are currently sixth with 39 points in the I-League standings, will play their next match against third placed Mohun Bagan (43) on April 14.

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