Calcutta: Seven years have elapsed since the inception of the National Football League, but Mohammedan Sporting, once a superpower in the circuit, have always hovered around the edges. Having failed to make the First Division all this while, it seems they might make the cut this season, finally.
After clearing the first two rounds of the Second Division in Jameshdpur, Mohammedan Sporting will be in action in the final round at New Delhi from April 23.
“We’ve been playing really well, but there’s still a long way to go,” Mohammedan Sporting coach Mohammed Habeeb told The Telegraph on Monday.
In the final round, Habeeb’s boys will play State Bank of Travancore, Air India and Haywards Sporting of Goa. The top two qualify for the First Division after a round-robin league.
“I am really impressed with the way the boys have shaped in the first two phases. They are playing the way they did in the initial stages of the Calcutta league,” the coach said.
Habeeb said his boys are greatly enthused, knowing that they are on the verge of taking a heritage-steeped side like Mohammedan Sporting to the NFL final round for the first time. “It’s an added motivation for them,” Habeeb said.
Talking about his team’s chances in the final phase, the coach said: “The match against SBT will be crucial. If we win that one, it will set the tempo for the rest of the tournament.”
He sounded really satisfied with the way the strikers have been performing so far. “Rahim Nabi is combining well with Dipendu Biswas and Adeel Ibrahim. If they keep up the good work, we’ve a bright chance,” he added.
Talking about the foreign recruits, Habeeb said: “Ibrahim and Eugene Gray have been doing a good job. Even Habeeb Adekunle, as a replacement, has done reasonably.”
Commenting on the recently concluded games in Jamshedpur, he said: “The games against Punjab Police and Manipur Police were really satisfying.