| Douglas and Gilmar: Great expectations
Calcutta: There was a time when ‘foreign connection’ in Indian soccer was restricted to African imports. Nigeria, Kenya and, in more recent times Ghana, supplied dozens of players to the upwardly mobile city teams some of whom spread their wings and moved to other National League teams.
How times have changed! A six-foot-plus muscular footballer from Chima Okerie’s continent no longer excites fans in the Mecca of Indian Football. One Jose Ramirez Barreto, from Pele’s land, has raised the bar. Now, none but a quality Brazilian ‘import’ will satisfy the fans.
Mohun Bagan have one Barreto. Come Sunday, East Bengal will be in a position to field two Brazilians — Douglas da Silva and Gilmar da Silva Goncalves. Douglas has already established himself as a pillar in defence while attacking medio Gilmar should be making his East Bengal debut in the derby clash.
Neither has featured in an East Bengal versus Mohun Bagan clash at Salt Lake Stadium before but at least Douglas — from his two-month experience with his club — has an inkling of the level of enthusiasm that such a match generates.
“This is an important match for both of us, we know how much this game means to the fans and the clubs,” Douglas said at an IFA-organised press conference where both Brazilians fetched up with club officials.
There was no pressure on him or Gilmar. “Here there is one big match, in Brazil we have to play many matches like this… We are used to such situations, no problem,” Douglas added in broken English, with a little help from a club official.
This is the first time he would be facing the feared Barreto-Bhaichung Bhutia duo. How confident is he of containing them' “I have seen both Barreto and Bhutia, they will be no problem,” Douglas announced.
Gilmar informed via Douglas that his last competitive match, in the Italian Serie B, was a month and a half ago. Tipped to start up front with Mike Okoro on Sunday, Gilmar sat through the question-and-answer session quietly. Having arrived in the city just a few days back, he would obviously prefer to let his football do the talking.
There was a palpable air of confidence in the East Bengal camp. Not much the same can be said about their rivals. Bhaichung Bhutia, still nursing a calf muscle injury, will be in the first XI, but he isn’t sure how effective he will be.
“I am more worried about my calf muscle than the opponents, don’t expect 100 per cent from me,” he warned fans after this afternoon’s practice game.
Sunday’s match will see the introduction of Man of the Match awards. M.A. Sattar and Mohammed Habeeb are the men chosen to select the best player.
A capacity turnout is expected and all 27 ramps from where spectators will enter the stadium will have six officials checking tickets with the help of six policemen.
“Anyone trying to get in with a fake ticket will be arrested,” IFA joint secretary Ranjit Gupta said at a press conference this evening.
Everyone but IFA members will get in with priced tickets. Members of both clubs will have to pay Rs 5 each while other tickets have been priced at Rs 15, 20, 25 and 30.
Though coaches and officials of both teams were invited to Friday’s press conference, representatives of only East Bengal were present.
Mohun Bagan boycotted the function to protest IFA’s decision to let its own members enter free of cost and also its reluctance to let the home club organise the NFL matches in the city.