| East Bengal’s South African physical trainer Kevin Jackson at the club Saturday
Calcutta, May 31: While their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, across the Maidan, engross themselves in sick and dirty off-field skirmishes and unending legal battles, National Football League champions East Bengal are living up to their name.
At the club tent Saturday, they held a press meet and introduced to all their new acquisition, physical trainer Kevin Jackson from Bloemfontein. A referral from Indian cricket team trainer Adrian Le Roux, Kevin will be taking charge of the East Bengal boys for a month, starting tomorrow. He wants to make the players “stronger, tougher, and better able to cope with injuries.”
A tall order for a set of players, few among who can boast of a first class physique to start with. But, then, as was pointed out at the meeting, Le Roux has to deal with a set of cricketers whose physical condition isn’t something to drool over.
Kevin, though, feels he can do a wonder or three with the players in his month-long stint — in which he will be paid $ 1,000 per week apart from Rs 1,000 per day as ‘expenses’, all sponsored by the UB Group.
The club is proud that it will be putting up all the players (30 plus four) at Hyatt Regency for a month to prepare for the ASEAN Cup and will be using its gym and swimming pool to boot. “It was a next to nothing offer for us,” said club secretary Kalyan Majumdar. “We will be the first club in the country to use a professional trainer for pre-season conditioning and we want to do it best.”
Kevin said he has asked for drums of ice-water for his sessions (to be held at Salt Lake Stadium). “These will be needed for the warm-down sessions,” he said. “I will employ different techniques for different players and wish to see how much strength and stamina increments I can get them to gain.” He feels this month will deliver enough goodness for the season “if my prescription for training (and diet) is followed.”
Kevin has never trained soccer players. The 24-year-old has diplomas in exercise science and nutrition from the University of Free State. He has experience with the Free State rugby and age-group cricket teams and South African world triathlon teams. However, he feels he will have no problem dealing with the East Bengal players.
“Rugby needs more strength and football more technique, for any sport that has stop-and-start sequences, the nature of fitness and injury problems are similar.”
Coach Subhas Bhowmick said: “This should have happened to Indian soccer 20 years back. No coach in the world takes care of the players’ physical fitness too. I am happy this happened. Tomorrow Kevin will just watch my training. He takes over the day after,” said Bhowmick. “I have already given him some tips, like I had noticed that Mahesh Gawli has a hamstring problem, and I have told Jackson to take care of that.”
Gawli, who comes over from Churchill Brothers, denied that he had any hamstring problem. “That was last year,” he said.
Gawli said it wasn’t the money but his desire to play for East Bengal that has brought him here. However, this being his first stint in Calcutta, he seemed pretty unaware of the load that players here take throughout the season. He revealed that last season he had played in the National League and in three matches of the local Goa league.
Compared to that 100m dash, he will be running a marathon here. He expects to cope. So do the club officials, and so does Kevin.