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Coach Colaco wary of Salt Lake pitch

- ‘Should play I-League home matches on natural turf’
Armando Colaco, during a news conference, on Thursday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Armando Colaco doesn’t want East Bengal to play their I-League home matches at the Salt Lake Stadium, thanks to its artificial turf.

Quite a few players, in recent times, have sustained injuries while playing and practising at the venue. Colaco, thus, doesn’t want his men to suffer.

“Artificial turfs, I feel, are very bad for the game. It’s because of these surfaces that players tend to sustain knee and ankle injuries. This is one reason why I always make sure we practise at our ground.

“We’ll either go to Kalyani or any other venue when it comes to playing our home matches in the I-League. We’ll try and avoid the artificial turf (of Salt Lake Stadium) as much as possible,” the East Bengal coach told reporters at the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club, on Thursday.

Already having announced his decision to play only juniors at the CFL, Colaco didn’t rule out the possibility of fielding a side without any of the foreign recruits in their opener against Mohammedan Sporting on Sunday.

“If you don’t give youngsters a chance to play at the CFL, where would you play them then? Giving youngsters more chances is the only way to develop Indian football.

“Also, what happens if someone like Ranty (Martins) or any other senior pro gets injured? So, I really cannot comment as to whether Ranty will be there in our opening game,” he said.

Releasing players for the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL) is another aspect that seems to keep East Bengal worried. If there’s no further change in the ISL schedule, East Bengal may miss some of their key players for the August 31 CFL Derby against Mohun Bagan, which is also the season’s first Derby.

“As far as I’m concerned, many of my players will be going for the ISL. There won’t be much time to adapt and get back to shape for (I-League and Federation Cup) when they return… At the end of the day, though, they are all professionals…

“Now look, if a situation arises that players will have to be released before August 31, we have to face it then. It’s not just us, but other clubs too will face a similar problem,” Colaco said.

Here’s what club secretary Kalyan Majumdar, who accompanied Colaco at the media conference, had to say on this matter. “As far as I know, the date of the players’ departure for ISL has been rescheduled to August 20. But can anyone guarantee if the CFL Derby will really happen on the 31st? The schedule keeps changing every now and then.

“So let’s see… We might try and hold back some of the players if the Derby is held as per schedule,” he commented.

East Bengal, meanwhile, are open to participating in this year’s Durand Cup. Their participation in the tournament will be finalised only on the basis of the team’s CFL performance.

If they do take part in Durand, the indication is it would again be a team comprising mainly juniors. “We cannot get all our seniors for Durand. So, if the juniors do well in CFL, we can certainly think of taking part in Durand.

“The CFL will give us a picture of how well prepared our juniors are,” Majumdar said.