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Bagan ban saddens Wim

Koevermans

Bangalore: National football coach Wim Koevermans on Sunday said that he was saddened by the All India Football Federation slapping a ban on Mohun Bagan from I-League till the 2014-15 season for abandoning the violence-marred derby match against East Bengal. However, he also felt that the ban was only according to the rules of the game.

“It is a tough punishment as many players cannot play for the moment. Of course, I am unhappy with the ban. But I also know one has to play according to the rules laid down,” he told reporters here.

Bagan were a goal down against archrivals East Bengal on the December 9 Derby when a brick hurled from one of the stands — apparently aimed at the referee — hit midfielder Syed Rahim Nabi.

The match resumed after a brief stoppage towards the end of the first half, but Bagan refused to take the field after the interval as India international Nabi was taken to hospital for treatment of a fractured right jaw.

Asked about the chances of the national team in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, especially as they are drawn alongside Myanmar, Guam and Chinese Taipei, Koevermans said that India should aim to win the tournament.

“That’s what we did in the Nehru Cup. Everybody said wow. All the teams were above India as per the FIFA ranking.

“But in the end, we did excel. That says something about the strength and mentality of our players. We want to win the first game against Palestine and next win the AFC Challenge Cup,” he said.

Asked how he monitors Sunil Chetri, who has signed up with Sporting Lisbon, Koevermans said he was in touch with the star footballer who plays four times a week with good players, which helps him improve his game.

Talking about the national team’s performance, Koevermans said they did fairly well in the Nehru Cup and played well in the AFC Challenge Cup last year too, though they failed to score even once in the competition.

“I am very confident about the performance of the team. We are already some places up in FIFA ranking. We were 169, now we are ranked 166,” he said.

Koevermans said he was a firm believer of the philosophy of playing on FIFA match days and asked the AIFF to hold matches on such days only.

“We are playing our first international friendly against Palestine in Guwahati on February 6. Thereafter, we have a training camp for qualification to AFC Asian Cup 2015. I am not sure where it would be held, though,” he said. (PTI)