Mumbai FC recently released 50-year-old Santosh Kashyap of his managerial duties at the club following a twelve-game winless streak. The former Prayag United gaffer did not share a good camaraderie with the team's supporters group called the Yellow Brigade.
In an exclusive conversation with Goal, the fans assess the ex-boss' stint at the metropolis outfit and also discuss the club's performance so far.
Q: In the beginning of the season, were you glad with Kashyap’s appointment?
YB: Yes. At the start of the season we were happy with his appointment as change was needed. We've always been a mediocre team under Khalid Jamil, fighting relegation season after season. This season we wanted to push for a top spot and hence we felt it was a sensible decision and a move in the right direction. Santosh Kashyap is one of India's most qualified coaches and we believed he was what we needed to achieve our goal of pushing for a top spot.
Q: What are your thoughts on Kashyap allegedly mistreating key players like Steven Dias, Pratik Chaudhari and Allan Dias?
YB: Santosh Kashyap came with a bunch of promises, but turns out he was all talk. He promised to reignite Steven Dias' career but instead singled him out, humiliated and abused him. Then, Kashyap went onto take the final step of releasing him. He called Pratik (Chaudhari) his own son, but then tried releasing him as well. Without even seeing an injured Allan Dias play, the gaffer tried to release him. It isn't only about them being fan favourites, it’s about what they bring to the team. Steven (Dias) is a captain and such a massive presence in the dressing room.
Pratik (Chaudhari) is one of the best defenders in India and was included in the Fantasy 11 of I-League. We believe he had a pretty good shot at being picked in the recent Indian squad, but those dreams were crushed as Santosh Kashyap snubbed him completely. Allan Dias might not be a star name but he is a very consistent and reliable player who steps up to perform when required. He has also been with us for quite a few years now. Without even giving him a chance he was going to be released, that’s plain unfair. This was going to be done mid-season which would achieve nothing but demotivating the squad.
Hence, naturally we were furious at this decision. We (Mumbai FC) were performing poorly and most of us were already tweeting to the club to get rid of him (Santosh Kashyap),this move(alleged mistreatment) by him just made our stance even more firm. Hence, we released a statement in support of the players and started with the #SantoshOut campaign.
Q: Did Kashyap’s game plans impress you? If yes, which ones? If no, why?
YB: Kashyap's iconic words were attacking, attractive and effective football. However, the team's gameplay, performance or results failed to live upto that. Majority of the players were played out of position and the squad resorted to defensive football in most matches. On top of this, his tactics were bizarre, completely mysterious and beyond understanding. Mid way in the season he claimed that the team was in a building stage, and very recently, prior to being fired, he said that the team will take another 20-25 days to gel. Kashyap was all talk and failed to live up to his promises. We were not happy with his style of play, tactics or substitutions.
Q: In your opinion, which was the biggest mistake committed by the 50-year-old gaffer?
YB: The manager took this club for granted. He thought he would fool us and get his cut of money and leave the club in rots like every other club he had been with. First, he did not give value to the club and what the club has been putting focus on- grooming players from Mumbai. He selected his set of new players, who had played under him before. Second, he lost it in the dressing room itself, which caused the sudden drop in form and confidence. Third, having the players perform with bizarre tactics and out of position, it was obvious that players would fall out with his opinions lose confidence.
Q: Do you think the promises made by Kashyap were delusional?
YB: Mumbai FC has been labelled a small club and rightly so because we've never really achieved anything praise worthy. That is the label we wanted to do away with. Hence appointing Kashyap was an attempt to take us in that direction and make us a top club. So when Santosh Kashyap promised us a Top 3 finish, we didn't think it was delusional because that was the reason he was appointed.
Q: In the post match press conference, following 5-0 result against DSK Shivajians, Kashyap questioned the upbringing of the fans. What are your comments on it?
YB: Firstly let us make this clear, if it was any other club Kashyap wouldn't have lasted that long and the patience we showed with him was commendable. Secondly, had it been any other club, and he had said those words about their fans, he wouldn't be the manager the next day. All of us give our everything for the club- he doesn't realise that. We have people who travel from really distant places just to watch Mumbai FC play, many of us take leaves from work, bunk college just so we can set up few hours before the game to create a good atmosphere for the team. We travelled to DSK recently, one of us in between his exams, one of us missing a close relative's function. These are the sacrifices we make, while he sits there judging our upbringing.
Managers get sacked all around the world, notably Leicester sacked Claudio Ranieri a season after he won them the Premier League. So if Claudio can get sacked despite that, why did Kashyap consider himself an exception? Campaigns to sack the manager happen around the world. For example, Arsenal fans keep running campaigns to sack (Arsene) Wenger. So what we're saying is that such things are usual in the football world. Santosh Kashyap has no right to question our upbringing. He stooped very low with that statement.
Q: What were your views on the exclusion of Hitesh Sharma mid-season?
YB: Hitesh Sharma is a future star, we have no doubt about that. He's been showcasing his skills since last season and has been proven to be a game changer with his creativity. Kashyap came with a promise that he would make Hitesh a star. In the first half of the season, Kashyap experimented with him, playing him in various roles- as a number nine or on the wings. This was confusing as everyone knew he was clearly a number 10. Experimenting with his role in the squad resulted in him losing form and not being able to live up to his abilities. In the middle of the season, Hitesh (Sharma) was nowhere to be seen. From being a ‘star’ to a waterboy- this was a very shocking decision considering he was such a creative player. Also, our gameplay had become very predictable. Everyone was very upset with this decision of completely excluding him from the first team.
Q: What was your assessment of Robson Chaves Santana? Was the signing meaningful?
YB: Robson Chaves Santana or 'Robinho' was signed as a centre attacking midfielder/stiker to provide the much needed attacking flair. He was thought of as a meaningful signing. After playing one game (against Shillong Lajong) he was released. After a while, a news broke, that on background verification, it was revealed he was not a legitimate player. Since the club dealt with it quickly and in a professional manner, we didn't really give much thought to it. (It must be noted that the official statement mentioned that the player was injured even on his arrival and was released due to the same reason).
Q: What are your opinions of the foreign signings at the club and which has been your favourite addition?
YB: We're happy with the foreign signings but just that their arrivals were very late. All teams had announced their foreigners before the season began, but our foreigners came in the middle of the season. I think we're happy with all the foreigners, but Djelaludin Sharityar is a fan favourite. His presence in the defense combined with his passion for the club has gone down very well with all the fans. So if we had to choose a favourite, then it would be him.
Q: Do you believe the absence of strong local lads in the team affected the squad’s spirit?
YB: The notable exclusion of our regular Mumbai boys Ashu (Ashutosh Mehta) and Jayesh (Rane) was a big shock for us. They've been with the club ever since they started their careers and it was weird to see them in an Aizawl FC kit. A player who belongs to the city for which he plays is a very important thing. As he not only plays for the club but he's representing his own city. Hence he will give his all for the team when he plays. This year the number of Mumbai boys were less already adding to it, Kashyap tried releasing the few Mumbai lads who were remaining. This was a very shocking move. Hence, yes we believe the presence of a few more Mumbai players would've had a positive effect on the squad's spirit.
Q: Oscar Bruzon’s appointment the ideal solution to the club’s current woes?
YB: Yes, hopefully Oscar Bruzon will be the solution to our views. He knows the Indian football scenario very well and his spell with Sporting (Clube de Goa) was a good one. We've heard a lot of good things about him from the Mumbai City supporters. We feel this replacement should’ve been done a few game-weeks ago. Chennai (City FC) and Churchill (Brothers) did it and their results have been an indication of how successful those decisions were. Despite having said this, it better late than never and here's hoping he brings us out of our slump.
Q: What shall be the biggest obstacle for Oscar on his arrival at the club?
YB: The biggest obstacle for Oscar will be the negative mindset and the redundant tactics left behind by Santosh Kashyap. He will have to change the mindset of the squad into a positive one and the concentrate on getting us favourable results.