As the East Bengal gaffer gears up for his first significant match in charge, he backs his squad to do him proud; Captain Hossain backs the team to win.
Some may excuse Marcos Falopa to be more than just a tad bit nervous. Tuesday's Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) Cup quarter-final against Indonesian opponents Semen Padang marks the first of many important encounters his team will need to win to establish a strong-hold over his opponents in various competitions. Going into the test, Falopa issued a rallying cry of sorts to his squad and pleaded with them to gift him the victory.
“Even a 1-0 win will do,” emphasised the Brazilian somewhat tensely, at the press conference held at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. A victory will certainly lift tension around the shoulders of the coach, who is grappling to eradicate all memories of former East Bengal Trevor Morgan, whose shadow seems to be following him all over the club. This match gives him the best possible chances to dispel all doubts that linger around his ability.
Since the beginning of his tenure, he has had a fair few moments of unrest, with players somewhat lukewarm and even critical of his training methods. The players even had an impromptu meeting to discuss these underlying issues, an unprecedented step without the coach in the loop.
Though tempers haven’t been set flare to yet, a good performance will definitely ease the mood and bring calm to a somewhat flippant team room and go lengths in re-instating the Red and Gold brigade players’ belief in the coach.
“It’s ridiculous for players who will not be in the 18-man squad to come with their kits,” elucidated a source close to the club. This was in reference to Falopa’s squad selection for the quarter-final, where is he repeatedly stated that each and every one of his players has a chance of making the cut. Clearly, he’s kept his plans top secret.
Ryuji Sueoka seems to dominate all headlines with his inclusion into the Tuesday squad an uncertainty, on account of his injury. “I am fit for the match. I do not know why people are saying I am yet to regain full fitness. I have come to this club to be part of the AFC Cup campaign. And yes, if I get a chance I will have a point to prove,” Ryuji dictated in light of speculations, after a practice session.
James Moga and Chidi Edeh, Reisangmi Vashum, Cavin Lobo, captain Mehtab Hussain and Lalrindika Ralte are certain starters on their respective positions on the pitch. Much of the focus is expected to be on James Moga and Chidi Edeh’s striking partnership. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will start in goal as Abhijit Mondal is still unfit.
Lobo is likely to start with Joaquim Abranches and Reisangmi Vashum likely to get the nod as well.
“Yes, we are confident of beating them. But at the same time we are not over-confident. We have a set team with most of us playing together for the last four seasons. The introductions of James Moga and Ryuji Sueoka have also bolstered our team. So we should be able to beat them,” explained Hossain.
When quizzed if his team were in any shape or mental frame to face up to the Indonesian Premier League (IPL) champions, captain sternly replied, “Why? We had a good pre-season. Our new coach (Marcos Falopa) and the physio (Falopa’s son Americo) have worked really hard in improving our fitness. We have prepared very well for this match.”
Semen Padang unlike East Bengal aren’t in a quandary of sorts. Top of the table with fifteen matches in the bag, the IPL leaders will look to add gloss to complement their current position and fashion a victory at the Salt Lake stadium.
“It’s not Uga, or Edeh or James. It’s Team East Bengal who will be playing and India’s prestige will be at stake. We are here to win the match. We won’t sit back and defend. East Bengal are a good side. We respect them but we are prepared to put up a good fight,” roared Padang’s coach Jafri Sastra
Semen’s main threat to opposition will come in the spearhead of their attack Edward Junior Wilson. The Liberian seems to be in the mood to add to his already impressive total of nine goals so far in the league. Captain Ellie Aiboy, Vendry Mofu. Mofu and Titus Bonai, are all revered national team heroes, waiting to spread their wings on this big occasion.
Defender Uga Okpara, though, believes that his team are not well prepared to face the music, stating, “It’s just a beginning of the season. Still we have to wrap up the match in the home leg itself. The away match will be very tough.”
The East Bengal faithful will be hoping otherwise.
Also, in an angst compunding development for football lovers accross Asia, AFC's marketing partner World Sport Group, have failed to agree a deal with any of the region's broadcasters, thus forcing a complete void of the match proceedings on television.
“It’s frustrating that the match will not live on television. We tried to convince the marketing partner of AFC to allow us to find a broadcaster but they were too stubborn,” expatiated East Bengal secretary Kalyan Majumder.
A WSG spokeperson cited the following reason to the The Telegraph for the omission of the game from household TV's:
"Star Sports are the rights holders for AFC Cup and have opted to not produce the East Bengal game tomorrow due to low interest in the region”
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