Calcutta: East Bengalís march into the semi-finals of the ASEAN Club Championship has instilled new zeal and confidence in the cityís football fraternity. The feel-good factor was accompanied by a we-can-do-it belief in the Maidan circles. The Telegraph spoke to coaches of three other National League teams from the city ó Mohammed Habeeb, Aloke Mukherjee and Subrata Bhattacharya ó to get their opinions on East Bengalís success.
MOHAMMED HABEEB: East Bengal have the best possible combination in India. Itís probably stronger than the national team. Even their reserve bench is so strong. One on one, they are a superior lot. Itís a very balanced side. Itís difficult to find weak points in their line-up.
The victory was deserving and they should have won 2-0. The penalty awarded to the hosts was unfair. The victory tastes even sweeter because it has come under an Indian coach. We seem to believe we can do well only under foreign coaches. Subhas Bhowmick has proved itís not true. Itís a very important win because it has come on foreign soil under an Indian coach. But one thing should always be kept in mind ó the East Bengal jersey carries its weight in gold. It injects the zeal into the player to defy odds. Itís nothing new. Itís a historical truth. Even I had some memorable wins in those colours.
ALOKE MUKHERJEE: East Bengal certainly played well as a unit on Monday. They were up against a home team, so it couldnít have been easy with the crowd totally against them. Also, this Indonesian side is definitely better than the Filipinos against whom East Bengal pumped in half-a-dozen goals the other day. This East Bengal team is certainly capable of winning the championship. They are not inferior to any of the teams in this competition.
Bhowmick has done a good job with the boys but his advantage is that almost the same set of boys have been there for nearly two years. They have a set combination and their morale is sky-high. The foreign players, Douglas (da Silva) and (Suley) Musah are making a big difference too. With solid help coming from the likes of Mahesh Gawli, Debjit Ghosh and Bhaichung Bhutia, East Bengal are looking very good.
SUBRATA BHATTACHARYA: I would be surprised if East Bengal donít win this tournament. I would never rate this meet as a first class one and donít think it will do much to improve the countryís overall standards.
We won the LG Cup (six-nation meet in Vietnam) last year and it has not helped improve our Fifa rankings. The storyline wonít change in this case too. More than giving Bhowmick the kudos, I would praise the East Bengal officials who deserve 50 per cent of the credit for the success.
Both Bhowmick and the club officials have been honest and dedicated to a job. Their honesty has been exemplary, something I had never experienced as Mohun Bagan coach.