"It is always tough to play against Sanjoy Sen's sides," Khalid Jamil said on the eve of his first Kolkata Derby in the national league and the statistics do not lie. It will be the first time that Sanjoy Sen and Khalid Jamil go head-to-head as managers of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal respectively but one has to wind the clock back to find the roots of this rivalry.
It was in the 2010-11 season when Sanjoy Sen, fresh off a stint with the India youth set up under the much revered Colm Toal decided that it was the right time for him to make a foray into club management. He was appointed as the first team coach at big-spenders United SC under the tutelage of Subrata Bhattacharya, serving as Technical Director at the club, then owned by Chirag Computers.
18th January, 2011 was when Sen and Jamil sat in the two dugouts for the first time but it was Bhattacharya who called the shots as Sen was the coach only for the fact that he held an A coaching license. A young Khalid Jamil brought his Mumbai FC to Kolkata and won by the slimmest of margins. Even three months later in the reverse leg at the Cooperage, it was a dour stalemate with neither side finding the back of the net.
Come next season, the club was re-christened to Prayag United and Sen was given full charge. It was the first time Sen and Jamil faced off as managers of their respective sides and Jamil had the last laugh in their first meeting - 3-1 to Mumbai FC.
Since that defeat, the only time Sen has lost to Jamil is the most recent match on that fateful afternoon in Aizawl when Zohmingliana Ralte's 83rd-minute header scripted two stories. One of Mohun Bagan letting their hand off the title race and the other being handing the I-League title to an underdog.
After his heroics with Aizawl FC, Khalid Jamil's stock rose to never before seen heights and his image of being a defensive coach, content with battling relegation and targeting mid-table finishes with Mumbai FC, shed overnight.
Heavyweights East Bengal wasted little time to secure his signature and that resulted in the Red and Golds securing an eighth consecutive Calcutta Football League title in September. With Sen undergoing a bypass surgery, Shankarlal Chakraborty was in-charge of Bagan in the last derby.
Jamil, born in Kuwait came back to his native motherland to pursue a career in football is also a former India international. After a near decade-long association with Mumbai FC, both as a player and manager, he changed Aizawl's fortunes in one season and now has taken the hot seat at one of India's most reputed clubs.
Sen, on the other hand, has little to show for his playing career but his coaching work at United SC and the promotion winning season at Mohammedan SC from the second division landed him the job that many lose sleepless nights over. Now in his fourth I-League season in-charge and a title and Federation Cup later, Sen looks more at home defying pundits who first believed a lack of either Bagan or East Bengal in his playing CV will leave him toothless at the helm of affairs of a Kolkata giant.
In eight meetings in the I-League, Sen's sides have won half of them. There is also a 3-2 victory for Sen's United SC over Mumbai FC which came in the 2012 IFA Shield.
With the derby on Sunday being hosted by the Green and Maroons, Sen can take solace from the fact that he has always ended up on the winning side against Jamil's teams at home. Reverse that piece of statistic and Jamil has been unbeaten versus Sen's side at 'home'.