| Manitombi Singh and Babun Kar help Brazilians Leonardo (left) and Eduardo stretch out on Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: It’s difficult to remember the last time that most members of Mohun Bagan had turned up, simply to watch their players in practice. This afternoon there were eager faces in the stands, no less than 5,000 of them, as they observed two pairs of fresh legs, from Brazil, show their skills before coach Aloke Mukherjee, goalkeeping coach Atanu Bhattacharya, assistant secretary Balaram Chowdhury and the court-appointed Special Officers.
There were no fireworks in what striker Eduardo Rebeiro or libero-central midfielder Leonardo Monorat de Almeida did (a lot more of the left foot than the right, unlike the double-footed Jose Ramirez Barreto), but they have virtually selected themselves. Or that was what Chowdhury indicated, because there isn’t anybody worth anything around now to fill the gap before the National Football League takes off.
Eduardo, who is coming over from a stint with Presiden FC of Indonesia, claims he has played in the first division in Brazil, Botafogo being one of the names doing the rounds. In Indonesia last year he was the most prolific scorer — 28 goals in 26 matches, if what has been said is to be believed. He said he was tired after an over 30-hour travel and was yet to fit in.
“I will have to fit into the team, the team will adjust for me,” he said. “So I will have to see the trend of football here, whether it is the long ball or the short passes and how, it will take some time.”
Mukherjee said he wasn’t commenting before two more practice stints, but, apart from any major injury surfacing, this will not stand in the way of the two integrating into the green-maroon brigade. The long-haired Leonardo could be a good buy for the team if he manages to add muscle to the suspect defence of the club.
Barreto practised on the sidelines of the practice match, but the coach said he was virtually fit and should be able to come into full, rigorous practice “in two-three days”. Barreto’s place isn’t under any threat yet, what with Marcos Pereira’s “injury” likely to keep that forward out for around a month.
It also brings into the picture Zimbabwean deep defender David. The 23-year-old had given his trial here and most were satisfied. Some money was paid in advance, but thereafter, said Chowdhury, “a host of intermediaries have been calling us up, demanding more and more money. It is a piquant situation, but I hope something could be worked out.”
Bagan do need the defence to be bolstered, but with the four-foreigner rule, it does leave Marcos in a very delicate situation.