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‘Second homecoming’

Calcutta: Mohun Bagan’s new coach Karim Bencharifa arrived in the city on Sunday night from Margao. Interestingly, the East Bengal contingent, which was also returning from Margao after blanking Churchill Brothers 3-0 the previous day, was on the same flight.

“His seat was in the front. But he did exchange the pleasantries with East Bengal players and coach Trevor James Morgan at the Margao airport,” a source said.

“It’s like second homecoming,” Karim said on his arrival in the city. The Morrocan was at the Bagan helm in 2008-09 and was unceremoniously removed in the middle of the 2009-10 season.

Karim said assistant coach Mridul Banerjee has done a wonderful job. “He has done a brilliant job. He deserves all the credit,” he said.

Talking about his previous employer Salgaocar, Karim said he would have been happier if things were much smoother. “I would have liked to see a happy ending. But then, certain things are not in my hands,” he said.

Although Karim resigned as Salgaocar coach last month, he could not join the green and maroon brigade due to contractual obligations with the Goa club.

“When I took over as Salgaocar coach in early 2010, the team were staring at relegation. From there on, we won the I-League and the Federation Cup. These are big achievements. The team did not make a good start this season. The senior players left and the new signings will take time to settle down.

“We lost in the Federation Cup semi-final (to Dempo) and then to United Sikkim Football Club in the I-League opener. The management said they would be looking for a new coach. And then Bagan came calling and I said ‘It’s fine.’ If people think I have joined Bagan for money then they are wrong. If money was a factor I could have joined any foreign team,” Karim said.