The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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East Bengal to apportion blame

Calcutta: Top East Bengal officials have taken up their football team’s non-performance issue extremely seriously and are willing to go to great lengths over this.

At an urgent meeting with club president Pranab Dasgupta this evening, much came to the surface, including coach Subhas Bhowmick’s repeated claim that he was willing to step down if the club felt that he was the one responsible for the recent spate of bad performances.

Dasgupta told The Telegraph, that the resignation “offer” was turned down immediately, saying “we have total confidence in the coach and his ability to lead the team as a unit,” but the focus on the team was narrowed down to three factors that need inspection, according to the president. “These three factors are overconfidence, lack of cohesion and discipline. We have to see which or how many of these factors are responsible in the team’s performance-dip.”

He said he will meet two senior players from the club, Bhaichung Bhutia and Mike Okoro to talk things over. Asked if what would be talked about with them pertained to the third item, discipline, the president said no. “I would want to talk to them about how the team’s performance can be improved and to find out what was ailing the club’s morale.”

There has been talk, on and off the pavilion, on Bhaichung’s missing the Super Cup match versus Mahindra United which East Bengal lost. Bhaichung was in Sikkim, on a “holiday” that was sanctioned, and had not been able to come down for the match in time. Whether such uncalled for absence amounts to indiscipline, isn’t clear.

Dasgupta also said that it was possible that this confidence loss of the players would be studied, if necessary, with a psychoanalyst. “Being a doctor myself, I am aware of what steps are necessary,” he said.

Bhowmick, though, said he had made no special resignation offer at the meeting. He said: “I have always said that someone has to take the blame for this slip in performance, and that I was willing to step down if I was the person who needs to take it.

“Regarding the psychoanalyst bit, I also believe it was possible to use a sports counsellor, if someone is available,” he said. “Look, if there has been this big performance debacle, there has to be a reason to it, some logic somewhere. There has to be ways and means of bringing the team back to its former self.”

Though apparently contradictory in their statements, the president and coach both did spell out immediate need for a change of some sort.

The president’s use of the words “overconfidence” and “discipline” doesn’t make things easy for the players. Probably there is a scope for accountability, for the money paid. Because, the “economical” part was also considered, and immediately thrown out, what with hardly any player able to complain on that front.

More is expected to unfurl in the next two days.

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