Calcutta: Action proper is still some days away, but coach Marcos Falopa has already swung into action to make clear who’s the boss at East Bengal.
The city giants have been in the news for the last couple of days for all the wrong reasons. Reports claimed that the players aren’t happy with the coach’s methods, only for the club to throw its weight in favour of the Brazilian the following day. But on Friday, Falopa steered clear of all such assumptions.
“I don’t care about what is being said behind my back… The only truth for the players and myself is hard work. That is my only concern, not what is said about me,” Falopa was loud and clear after his team won a practice match against Police AC, at the Salt Lake Stadium.
The coach emphasised that he has a closely-knit group who are improving everyday. “I’m happy with my players… They are gradually improving. Look, we may not party together, but we are a very close group. When the players discuss something among themselves, it’s about their needs and wishes… From themselves and the club. The only thing I’m interested in is the training,” he said.
For those who had any doubts about Falopa’s man-management skills, especially after reports of unhappiness among the players, here’s what he had to say: “I have coached Africans and Asians before… So while I’m coaching in East Bengal, I certainly don’t have a problem in dealing with an African, a Japanese or the Indians… It’s not at all an issue and I know my job.”
The much experienced Brazilian then spoke about his players and insisted that they were still a work-in-progress. “They are closer to the desired level… Like Uga (Okpara) needs to work a little harder, someone like Robert (Lalthlamuana) has been doing quite well.
“Then, youngsters like Jiten (Murmu) and Wasim (Akram Mallick) are very promising… You know, when Pele first played for the national team, he was just 17 years old.”
Falopa also gave a Brazilian reference while explaining the flexibility of formations. “I haven’t decided yet which formation I would employ. It’s all about adapting according to the situation… You can’t just worry about the position. In 1994, the Brazil coach made Romario play as a midfielder in training… There wasn’t any uproar about that,” he said.
Was that a hint that players might be seen in new positions during his reign? Falopa had a very logical answer to that. “Whatever is good, should be continued with; whatever is not, should be changed… You will have to be crazy to be changing positions just like that…
“Some players can adapt easily, some cannot… So you can’t simplify everything.”
East Bengal, fans and players alike, have a lot of expectation from their AFC Cup quarter-final match against Indonesia’s Semen Padang.
“At the moment, we are missing five players who are in the national camp… Two have injuries… So I can say that we are suffering. But at the same time, I must say that it’s normal…”
And, like a true Brazilian, he signed off saying: “It’s football.”