|Marcos Falopa (from left), Amal Dutta, PK Banerjee, Arun Ghosh and Syed Nayeemuddin during
a motivational session for East Bengal players, at the club tent, on Saturday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: East Bengal are no strangers to records and glory, but a shot at a possible final berth in AFC Cup is something that will give them a unique place in Indian football history.
Having lost the first leg semi-final at Kuwait City against Kuwait SC 4-2, the Maidan giants are keen to put up a good show in their home match — the return leg to be played at the Salt Lake Stadium on October 22.
And to see to it that the players are not just physically fit but also mentally on a high, the club organised a motivational session with former star players and coaches at the club tent on Saturday.
With the squad in attendance, Amal Dutta, PK Banerjee, Arun Ghosh, Syed Nayeemuddin, Manoranjan Bhattacharya and Bhaskar Ganguly urged them not be in awe of their opponents and believe in themselves.
PK Banerjee, despite his frail health, took the gathering back in time as he made the players line up and promise that they will fight the Kuwait team till the very end.
It was almost as if he was back as a coach and was giving his famed “vocal tonic” to the players.
“Don’t consider yourself to be weaker than them. I have seen many great teams, but it is true that if you believe in yourself and try, you can beat any team.
“We (East Bengal) had defeated a strong North Korea team here 3-1, after trailing 0-1. Strong home support helped the players to improve their game by a few notches,” the former India captain and coach said.
Amal Dutta, who played for East Bengal and later became their coach also, recalled the glorious days of the club under the then secretary Jyotish Guha in the 1950s.
“We didn’t even have a coach. Jyotishda managed the duties of a coach, a manager and a motivator. He taught us that nothing can be compared to victory,” he added.
Former India coach Syed Nayeemuddin urged the players to “do it on the ground and show the opponents that nothing is impossible”.
“If you believe in yourself, you can beat anyone,” said Nayeem, known for his tough attitude as coach.
Manoranjan Bhattacharya, the defender who is almost synonymous to East Bengal, asked the current crop of players to have self confidence.
Former goalkeeper Bhaskar Ganguly said: “Don’t lose a match before it actually happens.”
Also, being a goalkeeper himself, he underscored the importance of the position. “A goalkeeper is the last line of defence and the first line of attack. Whoever is under the bar, please talk to your teammates and help them understand the run of play on that day. Only a goalkeeper has full view of the ground,” he said.