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Karim ‘owes’ it to Odafe

Bencharifa

Calcutta: McDowell Mohun Bagan’s new coach Karim Bencharifa stressed on the importance of his partnership with Nigerian striker Okolie Odafe on Monday.

Karim, who was officially unveiled as the chief coach of Bagan on Monday, told a packed media conference that he owes his success as a coach in India to Odafe.

“During my stint (2006-08) with Churchill Brothers, Odafe was one of the key members in the side. We shared a good rapport and our partnership was crucial to the team’s success.

“The relationship was fruitful for both of us. He blossomed under my coaching and became the top-scorer in the I-League for two consecutive seasons… I have also gained from his goal-poaching skills. In India, whatever I’m today is because of him and I thank him for that.

“As I start my preparations to helm Bagan again, I’m looking forward in continuing the fruitful partnership with Odafe. To be frank, I actually have two dreams… At the end of the I-League, I want to see Odafe as the top-scorer and I also want the team to win the title,” the Moroccan said.

For Karim, this was his ‘second homecoming’. He was earlier the coach of Bagan in 2008-09 and was unceremoniously removed in the middle of the 2009-10 season. He joined Salgaocar before making his return with Bagan.

Karim revealed that his relationship with Odafe was so good that he had wanted the Nigerian in his squad when he was at the Bagan helm. “At the start of my second season with Bagan, I had planned to bring Odafe to Bagan. However, it didn’t materialise.”

Speaking further about his relation with Odafe, the coach said: “Odafe is a star … You cannot treat him the same way you would treat the rest of the team. So, managing him will be one of the key elements of my job.”

Talking about his return to Bagan, Karim said there was no bad blood between him and the club. “If my relationship with the club was not good, I wouldn’t have returned. It’s a new challenge and I enjoy taking up challenges.”

Under Karim, Bagan had won the Federation Cup and came runners-up in the 2008-09 I-League. Since then, Bagan have fared poorly in the national level competitions. In the ongoing season, Bagan are placed fifth in the I-League table while they made an early exit in the Federation Cup.

Asked how he plans to change the fortunes of the team, Karim said: “I had to motivate the Salgaocar players a lot. The Bagan squad has a lot of quality. We have garnered 10 points from the last four matches. And I want to build on the success.

“I am aware of my responsibilities. We are now four points behind the leaders…

“It’s not a big gap and we are confident of making progress in the group table.”