The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subrata supports IFA Shield skip

Calcutta: Mohun Bagan’s decision to skip the IFA Shield has undoubtedly infuriated the state body, but the coach is convinced it has done his team more good than bad.

The plethora of injuries plaguing East Bengal, who are playing in the IFA Shield and suffering handicaps after almost every match, has certainly encouraged their arch-rivals to take such a stand.

The IFA not only denied the club permission to take part in the Durand Cup, but has also issued a warning that the National League champions will not be allowed to take part in the local league if it doesn’t tender a written apology.

Mohun Bagan officials have already questioned the validity of such a threat and on Thursday, coach Subrata Bhattacharya said playing in IFA Shield would have seriously dented their chances of succeeding in the National Football Leauge (NFL).

According to Subrata playing the IFA Shield, a historical association as far as Mohun Bagan are concerned, could have jeopardised their NFL campaign on at least two accounts.

“We would have been forced to field a side way below full strength with so many injured (star striker Bhaichung Bhutia, goalkeeper Bivash Ghosh, defenders Palash Karmakar and Sumit Sengupta). Two more (goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar and medio Rennedy Singh) are with the national team.

“Going in with such a depleted side and losing would have done no good to the confidence of my boys. As it is, we are not too well placed in the NFL. More setbacks in the Shield could have demoralised them further,” said Subrata.

“Add to that the risk of injuries. East Bengal have suffered badly and their plight is a good example of what we would have risked. I can’t comment on the IFA-Mohun Bagan row, but as coach, I think skipping the Shield has been the right move,” Subrata said.

His East Bengal counterpart declined to comment on Mohun Bagan’s decision, but made no bones about the fact that the effect was all too evident. “How can you do well if you have to play every second day,” Subhas Bhowmick had said after Wednesday’s defeat against Churchill Brothers.

“I feel the outstation clubs are better off, since they don’t face the pressure to perform under such a wide range of adversities. This tight schedule has considerably reduced the strength of my reserve bench,” Bhowmick argued.

With personal scores to settle left, right and centre, the IFA-Mohun Bagan tussle is unlikely to take into consideration the plight of the club coaches with the National League about to enter the second phase. Some things do not change.

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