The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Foreigners hold key for EB
Vijayan can be Bhowmick’s secret weapon against Air India

Margao: This is the one trophy that has eluded Subhas Bhowmick in his illustrious career as East Bengal coach. This is also the one trophy that will hand his team the passage to the coveted AFC Cup, following conceding the National Football League title to Dempo last season.

Added to this the more recent ignominy when his side went down twice to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and were nowhere near challenging the green-and-maroon brigade’s push for the inaugural CFL Premier Division title.

Thus, the stakes for Bhowmick and his team will be high when they take on Air India on the opening day of the Federation Cup here on Wednesday.

Dempo SC, however, kick off the tournament taking on HAL in the first match in which the defending champions start clear favourites.

Last season, Dempo players didn’t appear for a photo-op after winning the final against Mohun Bagan when Cristiano Junior succumbed to injuries after scoring a double. That tragedy still haunts them.

Meanwhile, the importance East Bengal are attaching to this tournament could well be gauged from the fact that they were the first team to arrive here on Saturday.

Bhowmick, no wonder, was full of confidence on the match-eve.

“The 11-day training camp in Shantiniketan has helped our boys shape themselves mentally and physically,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “We all know the importance of this tournament and I hope the boys will be up to the challenge,” he pointed out.

The Congolese defender Liswa Nduti ' who signed for the team on Monday ' arrived here in the morning, and his presence is certainly to boost the team’s morale.

South African striker Sidney Nakalanga and old horse Mike Okoro are also set to play key roles in the team’s journey through the competition.

If the foreigners hold the key to success, I.M. Vijayan will be the secret weapon Bhowmick is sure to play, when required. The veteran striker seems to have lost nothing of his old touch despite being at the advanced stage of 40, and is ready to fire before drawing a curtain on his career for East Bengal. What better tournament can be the occasion to prove his worth once again than the Federation Cup.

Air India, on the other hand, have qualified for the NFL and also beat Mahindra United in the Mumbai league and Nadkani Cup.

Dempo are in an upbeat mood after starting the season winning the Police Cup and are unbeaten so far in the Goan Professional League.

With the signing of Nigerian Baba Tunde, Dempo look more sharp in the attack as they have Ranty Martins, who had played a key role in their NFL triumph.

“I have told the boys to go and enjoy their game. After all there is no use worrying about the result of our opening match against HAL,” coach Armando Colaco said, oozing confidence.

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