Calcutta: Ryuji Sueoka asked his compatriot and Mohun Bagan midfielder Katsumi Yusa to wait at the aisle. He walked into the media room at the Salt Lake Stadium with his kit bag dangling from his back. He looked relaxed… There were no signs of bitterness that was so evident on match-eve.
After helping East Bengal create history on Tuesday — they are the first Indian club to win five AFC Cup home matches on the trot — the Japanese midfielder was, as expected, the cynosure. There were chants, mad rush to get his autograph… He wasn’t in the mood to oblige… After all, he was in a mood to talk to the waiting media.
“Trevor played a big role in taking East Bengal to this far. That I have been able to play the AFC Cup quarter final is because of the hard work of Morgan. This goal is for him,” the Japanese midfielder said about his super strike, which helped East Bengal beat Semen Padang in the first leg of the AFC Cup quarter-final match.
Sueoka said coach Marcos Falopa was right in not giving him a start. “After I came back from the injury, I have played for just 10 minutes. That too, in a CFL match. Right now I can play for 60 minutes. But slowly I will be able to play a full match. The coach took the right decision by keeping me on the bench… I respect his decision,” he said.
Sueoka on match-eve had said that he was fully fit. “ I do not understand why people are saying I am yet to regain full fitness,” he had said.
On Tuesday he said he and teammates were working hard under Falopa. “We are trying our best. For me it’s a new club, a new set-up. So it will take time for me to settle down. Falopa also is new to everything here. We are slowly coming to grips with Falopa’s idea of football. Give us some time,” he said.
Sueoka said he was happy to get his name on the scoresheet but scoring goals is not his primary job. “We have strikers like (Edeh) Chidi, (James) Moga, Baljit Sahni, (Joaquim) Abranches, (Nilendra) Dewan. So primarily it’s their job. I am a midfielder who has to defend and build attacks. If I score then nothing like it, but if I do not nobody will put a gun on my head.”
Talking about the return-leg, Sueoka said East Bengal would have been better off had they pumped in a couple of more goals. “At Padang they will come hard at us. It’s their home match. We will have play out of our skins if we want to see us in the semis.”
Like Sueoka, Falopa also spoke animatedly. “This is a very important win for us. We worked hard for this victory. You have to understand this team (Semen Padang) is in the middle of a great run. They are no pushovers. We were lucky in some situations,” the Brazilian said.
Falopa heaped praise on Sueoka. “Our team played much better after Sueoka and Abranches came. Before that we were not putting much pressure on our rivals. Sueoka is a great player and scored gem of a goal. I would request everyone not to rake up Sueoka’s fitness issue.
“His fitness has improved a lot. I can tell you here itself that he will start in Indonesia. Do not put me under stress by creating divisions in the squad. We are a happy family, here in East Bengal.”
Falopa also praised Mehtab Hussain and Cavin Lobo for showing guts. “They played with courage. Even Chidi put in a lot of effort in the second half. Overall, I am happy with the performance of the team. I asked for victory as a gift. And they did not let me down,” he said.