| Douglas: First choice foreigner
Calcutta: With the Calcutta League and Durand Cup wrapped up, East Bengal start their TVS Fiero IFA Shield campaign Monday, but not in much of an upbeat mood. On the eve of their opener against Indian Bank, coach Subhas Bhowmick made no bones about the fact that he does not want his team to play in the tournament.
“Nine matches in 14 days is asking too much from the players. I really didn’t want my team to play, but since it’s a tournament organised by the parent body (IFA), we have to,” Bhowmick said.
Added to that, East Bengal will miss the services of their dependable stopper M. Suresh. “He has an injury and has left for home,” the coach informed. The city giant’s forwardline will also be hampered by the absence of Mike Okoro, Man of the Tournament in the Durand Cup, who has gone on a vacation.
The coach informed that Sasthi Duley and Surya Bikash Chakraborty did not attend practice Sunday, and he is not sure whether they will be available. “In fact, I have asked all my boys to come Monday. I will scratch in the first XI from whatever resources available tomorrow.”
One relief for the coach, however, is the availability of three other foreigners — Suley Musah, Douglas de Silva and Gilmar Goncalves. Douglas is likely to play, though the coach is undecided who the second will be.
On the other hand, Indian Bank coach V.P. Sathyan made it clear that whatever condition East Bengal are in, the red-and-gold brigade will start favourites. “They are the best side we have played against this year. We will be happy to come off with one point,” Sathyan said.
He also sounded extremely respectful about East Bengal’s reserve bench. “Their bench strength is mind boggling, and in their own backyard, East Bengal are a really tough opposition,” the coach added.
Indian Bank held the city giants 3-3 in their National Football League match at Chennai last month.
Md. Sporting woes
Injury-plagued Mohammedan Sporting, still smarting from their loss against Army XI in the Durand Cup semi-final, open their Shield campaign Monday against Tata Football Academy. “It was a blow for us losing out in the semis after getting lead in the 87th minute. We haven’t fully recovered from that yet,” Mohammedan Sporting coach Mohammed Habeeb said. The coach informed that while goalkeeper Prasanta Dora, left-back Biswanath Mondal and midfielders Amit Das are nursing injuries, Bhuvan Joshi is down with fever.
“Our midfield is badly hit, but we will have to do with whatever we have,” Habeeb added.
But the coach feels that the TFA boys are sure to give them a good run for their money. “They are a young bunch and will give everything they have. So things will be far from easy,” Habeeb felt.
But the coach said that nothing short of a victory will be satisfactory. “It’s crucial we win tomorrow, otherwise things can get a little dicey later.” Vasco head the group with four points from two games while TFA are on one from one. Calcutta Port Trust have lost their first match.
Tollygunge Agragami are a worried lot on the eve of their second Shield match against Churchill Brothers. “Striker Akeem Abolanle defender Sujit Niyogi and left-half Amitava Chanda are sure to miss out,” a senior club official said.
“Also, with Ashim Biswas playing for India, we are really in a spot trying to form our first XI,” the official added. He informed that Moses Ohira and Laltu Mondal are likely to start upfront.
Tollygunge and Churchill Brothers were held goalless in their opening games against Indian Bank. Churchill Brothers are also not without their share of injuries. “Yusif Yakubu, our striker is nursing an injury and is a doubtful starter. But we will decide on his availability tomorrow,” manager N. Gonsalves said. “However, we will go all out for the match,” he added. The teams drew 1-1 in their National League match in December.