| Mohammedan Sporting players undergo training at the SAI, Eastern Centre, on Friday, the eve of their Federation Cup opener against ITI. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: After a one-year hiatus, the Federation Cup is back. The meet, christened the Tata Federation Cup with 16 teams in the fray, kicks off on Saturday at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Mohammedan Sporting will meet ITI in the opener while Indian Bank take on Salgaocar in a later game.
The Calcutta giants’ form has hardly been inspiring in the Calcutta Super Division League but coach Mohammed Habeeb is looking ahead with optimism.
“Losing two matches in the League has been a big setback for us,” said Habeeb.
“The players are under tremendous pressure and from past experience I have seen that they do well in such situations. Moreover, the players have to play well for themselves,” he added.
Habeeb welcomes the appointment of P.K. Banerjee as technical director of the side. “I personally took the initiative in getting him. His expertise will be of great help to the players and myself.”
Banerjee was appointed on Friday and was present at the match-eve practice session.
Mohammedan Sporting will play in the 4-4-2 formation with Dipendu Biswas and Sheikh Sanjeeb upfront.
Syed Rahim Nabi will be pushed to the midfield to join Satish Bharti, Bungo Singh and Khaled Siddiqui. The defence will undergo some reorganisation with Habeeb Adekunle pairing Hussain Mustafi as stopper. Amjad Ali Khan and Amandeep Singh will be the two wing backs.
Though there was some uncertainty over goalkeeper Bivash Ghosh following his indifferent showing in the League, his experience may finally see him through.
Habeeb has very little idea about opponents ITI. “I’ve seen them in the NFL last year. They run well, have good fighting ability, but their main drawback is lack of match temperament. I hope to cash in on this.”
Salgaocar will be banking on a bunch of talented youngsters when they launch their campaign. The Goa side won the tournament in Calcutta in 1997, when the city last hosted the meet.
They have arrived with a new-look team, but coach Savio Madeira is relying on the side’s reputation and the fighting spirit of the youngsters to put it across the bankmen and proceed to the quarter finals.
“I have taken this tournament as a challenge. And my players are quite capable,” Madeira said.
The Goan league champions are relying on local boy and custodian Rajat Ghosh Dastidar for some valuable tips during their campaign. The side has only one foreigner, Belo Rejak.
Indian Bank — champions in the Chennai League and the Tamil Nadu Cup — are banking on the experience of international stars Sabir Pasha and Amalraj to upset the Goan applecart. With no foreigners in the side, they have shown immense faith in strikers K. G. Joseph and Basir.
Coach and former national captain V.P. Sathyan said: “I’ve had very little time in preparing for this tournament and so am not very sure of how we stand.”
For the first time in Indian football history, dope tests will be conducted as per Fifa regulations. The samples collected will be tested at a laboratory accredited by Fifa at Penang in Malaysia.
Dr Nisith Ranjan Chowdhury, member AFC medical committee, said the players will be selected by lottery. It will be restricted to one player from each team.
The champions will be richer by Rs 10 lakh while the runner-up gets Rs 6 lakh.