| Edeh Chidi |
Calcutta: Defending champions East Bengal begin their Federation Cup campaign when they take on Rangdajied United Football Club (RUFC), at Manjeri, on Wednesday.
East Bengal should have it easy against the Shillong side, but the real battle lies when they face Bengaluru FC and Sporting Clube de Goa. It’s the Group of Death and coach Armando Colaco is aware of it. He said his team is not taking Rangdajied lightly. “They are no pushovers. It will not be easy as many are thinking,” he said.
Uga Okpara is in the squad for Wednesday’s match and that can be a positive for East Bengal.
Without Uga, the defence had looked vulnerable against Mohun Bagan during Saturday’s CFL Derby. Gurwinder Singh and Raju Gaikwad did not look confident then. Uga’s return will boost the Maidan giants.
Armando will, however, miss the services of Arnab Mondal who is busy with a Central Revenue Sports Board meet. “This defies logic. We will be playing the Fed Cup and one of our main defenders has to play some inconsequential office tournament,” a senior player said.
Under the circumstances, East Bengal will rely on Edeh Chidi and James Moga, if they play, for goals.
It’s not just East Bengal. Even Mogun Bagan, who play Mumbai FC in Kochi, are bearing the brunt of this office tournament. Key men Kinshuk Debnath and Denson Devadas are returning.
“I still can manage without Kinshuk, but how do I replace someone of Denson’s calibre? He is so much a part of my scheme,” coach Karim Bencharifa sounded helpless.“I can play Aiborlang Khongjee as a central defender, but there is hardly anyone I can use as a central defensive midfielder. It’s frustrating,” he said.
Arnab and Abhra Mondal did not travel with the team and are expected to join the squad before the second match. Bagan officials had told Debnath and Denson that they would impress upon their employers and the players will be able to play Wednesday’s match.
However, the club failed to make any impression on their employers and had to make necessary arrangements so that the duo reach Calcutta in time for the tournament.
There is also cloud over Okolie Odafe’s fitness too. He picked up an injury during the CFL Derby and may not start. This means the burden of goal-scoring will be on Christopher Chizoba and CS Sabeeth.