Kolkata was decked completely in Red and Gold livery, honouring East Bengal’s victory, over two legs, against Indonesian opponents Semen Padang and thus progressing to the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Cup semi-finals where they await their opponents, Kuwait SC.
The sense of elation and rejoicing grasped the players who had helped their side qualify for their first AFC Cup semi-final in their history, their previous best being the competition’s quarter-final.
Letting his thoughts be known in a post-match interview, skipper Mehtab Hossain explained that his side’s countenance and stubborn habit of not accepting defeat helped them tide over the Semen initiative. “Apart from hard work and fighting spirit, our success also highlights how far we have progressed as a team. Most of us have been playing together for four successive seasons. We are like a family. Credit should go to the club officials for helping us to gel as a team,” stated Mehtab to The Times Of India.
His team’s opponents Kuwait SC qualified for the semis after thrashing Maldivian New Radiants 7-2 in their very first leg of the quarters itself. “We are aware that Kuwait SC will be a much tougher opponent. But our self-belief and character are equally strong. If we can play to our plans in Kuwait, we’ll have a chance of reaching the final,” elucidated Mehtab on the adversaries his team will face as early as October 1st.
Trevor Morgan, former coach of the Kolkata side, remained optimistic as well and sceptic in tandem, explaining a rough ride would ensue for the team but all would be well if they stuck to an adequate game-plan.
“The semi-final will be tougher against good opponents who play in a very competitive league. But I hope the players and supporters enjoy the moment as it is a good day for East Bengal and Indian football.”
Mehtab emphasised his point, in a concluding statement with The Telegraph, “Celebrations can wait because we still have matches to play. We know we’ll be up against a very strong team in the semi-final. So, our priorities are clear. Now that we have come this far, we want to go further. We just cannot afford to look back at this stage.
“Each of the players have done a fantastic job and they are determined to carry on the good work.”
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