As the I-League season 2013-14 approaches, Goal introduces each of the 13 competitors. In this edition we take a look at the Mariners who have lofty goals under Karim Bencherifa..
BY KAUSTAV BERA Follow @hopelessk on twitter
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club
Last season's performance: (Finished 10th) - If the term rollercoaster ride was appropiate for any team's season, it had to be the Mariners. Having failed to turn up in the second half for the Kolkata derby citing security concerns after a player had to be hospitalized due to a missile from the crowd, the club was supposedly thrown out only for the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to dock all its points and allow it to compete the rest of the season in a battle to stay up.
Under Karim Bencherifa's tutelage, the team struggled but somehow managed to rake up the required points to avoid relegation, finishing at alowly tenth position.
| THE COACH
Karim Bencherifa's return to his former club after leading Salgaocar to an I-League championship was rocky to say the least. However being put in charge of a frankly unbalanced side did not help and the mid season drama made things worse. With saving the season the only goal, he did keep Mohun Bagan up.
Bencherifa is one of the most successful coaches in the Indian football circuit having guided an unfancied Salgaocar FC to both the I-League and Federation Cup titles. He done well in his stints with Churchill Brothers and the last trophy won by Mohun Bagan was under his tutelage a few years back.
| TRANSFER DEALINGS
TRANSFERS IN:With Mohun Bagan Finance Secretary, Debashis Dutta not being involved in transfers this summer, the onus was on football secretary Uttam Saha to deliver the goods. Nicolau Borges, Anthony Pereira and Rowilson Rodrigues were roped in from Dempo while Adil Khan joined the club's ranks from SC Goa. Katsumi Yusa who had a brilliant last season with ONGC has joined and following him was his ONGC team mate,Wahid Sali. Eric Muranda has been recruited to partner Odafa Okolie up front while Zakeer Mundampara, Ravinder Singh and Sankar Oraon have been added from United Sports. A few academy players like Rana Gharami, Bengkok Nameirakpam have been promoted to the first team. Two new keepers have also been added with Sandip Nandy moving from Churchill Brothers along with Monotosh Ghosh. The Aryan duo of Rajib Ghorui and
TRANSFERS OUT: With the number of additions, there have been quite a few departures too from the Kolkata giants. Syed Rahim Nabi, Nirmal Chettri and Manish Maithani has elected to join the newly formed IMG-R setup. Tolgay Ozbey has been released while Quinton Jacobs has not been retained. Snehasish Chakraborty has joined United SportsClub. Arindam Bhattacharya has joined his former club, Churchill Brothers while Rakesh Masih was released and he went on to sign for Salgaocar.
| FORMATION AND TACTICS
Goal had a chat with Karim Bencherifa about the formation of the team. The manager has hinted that he would embark on a 4-4-2 or something akin to a 4-4-1-1 this season.
Despite the number of signings made over the summer, the Mohun Bagan outfit only have nineteen senior experienced players which highlights that their squad is not the strongest.
Sandip Nandy will undoubtedly be the No. 1 ahead of Shilton Paul and Monotosh Ghosh will be breathing down his neck.
In defense while Ichezona Anyichie will retain his spot as center back, his partner should in all probability be Rowilson Rodrigues though Aibor Khongjee and Kingshuk Debnath also have a shot. Left back will be a tossup between the versatile Aibor and new recruit Ravinder Singh while Wahid Sali will be expected to cement his place at Right Back.
Denson Devadasa is expected to do the dirty work in central midfield allowing Katsumi Yusa the freedom to roam about to link up with the strikers. Manish Bhargav will patrol the right wing in the absence of Anthony Pereira while Nicolau Borges would take up the other flank.
While Odafa Okolie will obviously lead the side from the front, Karim has a lot of options for his partner. Eric Muranda can partner him when needed but the likes of Sabeeth and new United Sports boy, Sankar Oraon will also be available.
Man to Watch - Katsumi Yusa
Katsumi Yusa has already stated his desire to link up with Bagan's talisman, Odafa Okolie and give him the freedom to score more goals.
“Odafe is a star. He is a striker par excellence. He is a goal machine. If he is on song, he can win you matches easily. So it will be important that I develop an understanding with him… I am looking forward to playing with him. Actually, I have a very tough job to perform and I am quite tense. He is scoring … So I will have to perform equally well to complement him."
“I want to help him score more goals than ever. I will always give my 100 per cent on the field and see to it that Odafe doesn’t fail because of me... If our partnership works, it will be beneficial to the team,”Only time will tell whether Katsumi can gel with Odafa but the early signs look good as he has started well in Bagan's Calcutta Football League (CFL) campaign.
| SEASON'S TARGET
The team has started their CFL campaign with a thumping 4-1 win over Railways but have been halted by George Telegraph and Peerless both of them drawing 2-2 with them.
However while the fans and officials would like Bagan to win the title one would have hoped that they would have given Karim a much more balanced squad.
A top five finish is a must while a title challenge cannot be ruled out which primarily depends on the form of Odafa Okolie.
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