| East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick has a word with defender Douglas de Silva at the club ground Tuesday, the eve of the IFA Shield final. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta: A dilemma as acute as this is indeed difficult to imagine. You have been cursing the erratic calendar for the burnout of players when suddenly, that same schedule pitchforks you into the final, with the attendant pressures to claim the title.
Wednesday’s final of the 108th TVS Fiero IFA Shield between East Bengal and Churchill Brothers has it all.
If East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick is aiming at annexing four titles in a season for the first time, his opposite number Marcos Pacheco will be eyeing his team’s maiden title overall.
On match-eve, their objectives were more or less identical, but approach starkly different. This is what Bhowmick had to say: “When you are in the final and when the name of the team is East Bengal, can you think anything but winning'”
Pacheco’s take was: “You can’t lose all along. The trend has to stop somewhere. Maybe tomorrow is the day we have been looking for since our beginning.”
It has always been a so-near-yet-so-far story for the Goan outfit. They have finished runners-up twice in the National League, thrice in the Rovers Cup and once in the Durand Cup.
The local outfit, however, has had quite a dream run this season, winning the CFL Super Division League, the Independence Cup at Nagaon and the Durand Cup in New Delhi. The Shield is their happy hunting ground. They have lifted it 26 times.
East Bengal’s bench strength has been in the news lately. But Bhowmick has hardly had much to choose from, suffering a double-blow before the final — S. Malswamtluanga and K. Kulothungan out with herpes and dysentery, respectively.
Injured Kaustav Ghosh, Tushar Rakshit and Gilmar Goncalves are already unavailable. The much-expected reinforcements in the form of players returning from national duty too hasn’t materialised as a list of 20 players has already been registered.
Pacheco, however, refused to read too much into East Bengal’s depleted ranks. “I really don’t know why this particular aspect of the East Bengal team is being talked about. When they have signed a player, they must have scrutinised his worth, isn’t it'” he pointed out.
“I respect East Bengal and their coach. But, one thing you can be rest assured. we’ll push ourselves to the utmost levels… We are so desperate about breaking the jinx,” he added.
However, titles are not necessarily won by the best team, but by those who have a set of well-developed resources to fall back on for the most critical ties. This year’s Shield certainly can not be called a cut-throat competition, but East Bengal have managed to show a cutting edge, strong and sharp enough to qualify them on both accounts.
Against Tollygunge Agragami (in the last group encounter) and Vasco SC (in the semi-final), when the chips were down, Bhowmick’s boys looked sharp and lively in sustaining the pressure of staying in the fray.
Come Wednesday, it remains to be seen whether such tale gets closer to the doorstep of a folklore or is told in a different narrative against the proverbial losers of Indian football.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee; Amjad Ali Khan, Arun Malhotra, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Douglas de Silva Santos; Sankarlal Chakraborty, Shasthi Duley, Suley Musah, Jiten Rai, Soumitra Chakraborty, Chandan Das, Raju Singh, Swarup Chatterjee.
Churchill Brothers: Edward Ansah; Denzie Ferrao, Farooq Hyder, Pio Rodriguez, Noel Wilson, Rajesh Meetei; Roque Barreto, Aqueel Ansari, Tiken Singh, Zaheer Abbas, Kanta Singh, Ratan Singh; Kasif Jamal, Yusif Yakubu, Preetam Bahadur.