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Not dreaming about the sleeping giants

Mumbai: If any of the Calcutta clubs were hoping to cash in on Mahindra United’s closure, they might be in for a reality check: the sleeping giants of the east are not the first choice for the likes of Mohammed Rafi.

It might be early days but indications are that Mahindra players would prefer neighbouring Pune FC or a Goan club to East Bengal and Mohun Bagan with reasons ranging from personal to professional.

“I have good offers from all teams including East Bengal, Dempo and Pune FC. I would prefer Dempo because that would be closer to my hometown (Kasargod),” Rafi told The Telegraph.

For skipper K.N. Ajayan, the decision will be based on a combination of factors.

“You need to look at how good the management is, how they are handling the players. Dempo are the table toppers but Salgaocar are also a good club,” he said.

Ajayan, however, wasn’t too keen on finding out about the new team, to be sponsored by ONGC, that are to are to get direct entry into the I-League by the AIFF.

“It’s always difficult with a new team. Mumbai FC were good the first year but after that they have had management issues,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you have to go with the one who makes the best offer,” he said.

It’s clear from the conversation with Ajayan that player management was an issue with Calcutta clubs which could keep him, if not others, from moving to the city. And who would blame him, given the recent saga involving India captain Bhaichung Bhutia and Bagan.

On the topic of Mahindra’s disbanding, the players said they were upset with the timing of the announcement.

“If they had told us a month ago, we would have taken up some good offers that were coming our way. Now everyone knows we have no contracts. We won’t have the upper hand in the bargain,” Ajayan said.

Rafi said the first time the management initiated talks about new contracts was in Kerala where they had gone to play Viva Kerala.

“I said if I am given a good offer, I would stay as my first priority was Mahindra. But nothing happened,” he said. Of course, what happened thereafter is history.

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