Tolgay Ozebe on arrival in the city,
on Friday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Mohammedan Sporting are on a roll. Having won the Durand Cup after 73 years on Thursday, they will look to maintain their winning run when they take on Pune FC in their I-League opener on Saturday.
This has been a fruitful start to the season for Mohammedan Sporting after having invested heavily in a star-studded foreign line-up comprising Luciano Sabrosa, Penn Orji, Tolgay Ozebe and Joshimar. Under the Nigerian coach Abdul Aziz Moshood, the players have gelled well so far.
They return to the top-tier league after four years and will look to make their start memorable against last season’s runners-up.
The team returned to the city on Friday morning from New Delhi to a grand welcome at the airport from a motley gathering of supporters.
“The players were keen to prove themselves… It’s a natural show of emotion,” said an overwhelmed coach Moshood on arrival. The players will look to transform this form in the coming tournaments. The officials have been very supportive and this success is a result of their support and co-operation.”
Mohammedan Sporting, though, have injury worries. Brazilian defender Sabrosa, who suffered an injury in the Durand Cup final against ONGC on Thursday, has been ruled out of Saturday’s tie. Penn is also a doubtful starter. “Missing Luciano is a big blow… But we’ve to deal with it,” said Moshood.
The coach is aware of Pune FC’s capabilities. “They are a good side… They are tough competitors and well prepared… But we are prepared and the team is moving in the right direction. We have been playing non-stop… A good start is important,” explained Moshood.
The players also seemed aware of their responsibilities. “We can’t stop here… The Durand Cup win is only the beginning. We’re not thinking of winning the I-League straightaway. We’ll take it step by step… It’s a long journey,” said Penn.
Tolgay Ozebe was also positive. “We’re positive … We’re looking forward to the I-League and can’t rest on this success.”
Pune FC, on the other hand, will look to find their rhythm under new coach Mike Snoei, who replaced Derrick Pereira. The team has had 10 weeks of intense training and are well prepared.
Among Pune FC’s foreigners, only Ivorian midfielder Douhou Pierre has previous experience of playing in India but the other three have impressive profiles as the team has the focus on youth development this season.
English central defender Calum Angus is a former Portsmouth youth player while Australian striker James Meyer is a former Hertha Berlin youngster and A-League forward.
Spanish-born Raul Fabiani is a former Villarreal B striker and current Equatorial Guinea international. They also have four Under-19 players in their ranks.
“Our main objective is to develop youngsters at the club. In this season, you will see good young players getting a fair chance in the first team,” Pune FC coach Snoei said.
Meanwhile, the All India Football Federation announced that AirTel is the title sponsor of the I-League.
Interestingly, AirTel did not renew its contract with the Board of Control for India (as series sponsors for all international and domestic matches played in India) a few days ago.
EYE ON I-LEAGUE
l 1996-97: JCT
l 1997-98: Mohun Bagan
l 1998-99: Salgaocar
l 1999-00: Mohun Bagan
l 2000-01: East Bengal
l 2001-02: Mohun Bagan
l 2002-03: East Bengal
l 2003-04: East Bengal
l 2004-05: Dempo
l 2005-06: Mahindra United
l 2006-07: Dempo
l 2007-08: Dempo
l 2008-09: Churchill
l 2009-10: Dempo
l 2010-11: Salgaocar
l 2011-12: Dempo
l 2012-13: Churchill
l Most individual goals in a match: 7 by Ranty Martins, Dempo SC vs Air India in 2010-11
l Maximum No. of goals in one edition: 32 by Ranty Martins, Dempo SC in 2011-12
l Biggest winning margin: Dempo SC bt Air India 14-0 in 2010-11
l Most Goals Scored in a match: 14, Dempo SC (14) vs Air India(0), 2010-11
l Most number of goals scored by a team in one edition: 63 in 26 matches by Dempo SC, 2010-11
l Most goals scored in one edition: 531 goals in 182 matches, 2012-13
l Fastest goal: James Moga — 14 seconds (Pune FC vs United Sikkim, Gangtok, 2012-13)
l Maximum hat-tricks: Okolie Odafe (13 times)
l Most No. of matches won: East Bengal (181)
l Most numbers of goals scored: Churchill (598)
l East Bengal hold the record of remaining unbeaten in 22 consecutive matches. From their 18th match vs HAL in 2001-02 to their 17th match vs Tollygunge Agragami in 2002-03
l Bagan hold the record of winning maximum consecutive ties (10) in an edition (2008-09)
Ranty Martins – 172 goals
l Okolie Odafe – 159 goals
l Yusif Yakubu – 139 goals
l Jose Barreto – 101 goals
THE DESI BOYS
l Bhaichung Bhutia – 89 goals
l Sunil Chetri – 65 goals
l RC Prakash – 49 goals