Monday, 30th October 2017

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False start for CFL in new season

Garcia had on Wednesday made it clear they would be targeting the I-League and the Super Cup

By Arindam Bandyopadhyay in Calcutta
  • Published 26.07.19, 1:26 AM
  • Updated 26.07.19, 1:26 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Renovation work going on at the Mohun Bagan ground on Thursday. Telegraph picture

The opening match of the Calcutta Football League (CFL) between Mohun Bagan and Peerless SC, slated for Friday, has been postponed. The reason for the postponement is unfinished renovation work at the venue of the match — the Mohun Bagan ground.

This is not just a disappointment for the fans who were eagerly awaiting the season opener, but also a setback for the CFL and the Indian Football Association (IFA), which runs the sport in the state, in general.

“Some renovation work is still going on at the Mohun Bagan ground and we couldn’t find any alternate venue for the game... So we decided to postpone the match,” IFA’s new secretary Joydeep Mukherjee said on Thursday.

Not only the opening match, uncertainty looms over the other matches as well. Mohammedan Sporting would not like to play their opening match against Aryan on July 29 as well. Mohammedan Sporting sent a letter to IFA on Thursday saying, “Condition of our club ground is not up to the mark, so it is not ready for the game”.

Asked about the Mohammedan Sporting letter, IFA secretary Mukherjee said: “The East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting grounds got ‘fit’ certificate from the Public Works Department (PWD). We have a copy of that and we have sent that in our reply. Hope Mohammedan Sporting will play the game.”

Later in the afternoon, Mohammedan Sporting shot off another letter and requested IFA to give them a little more time to prepare their ground.

In that case, CFL 2019 will start on Saturday, with three matches scheduled on the day — BSS Sporting vs Southern Samity, NBP Rainbow AC vs Bhawanipore Club and Kalighat MS vs Calcutta Customs. There is confusion over the date of the Derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal as well. But at the moment, the IFA is not in a situation to think about the mega match, they just want to start the league somehow.

The IFA sectary also informed that matches would not be played between August 11-13 because of security issues. The IFA released the fixture for the first two rounds for the three main clubs on Monday. But how can the IFA release the fixture without knowing the condition of the grounds? That will be quite a big question for the state association to answer.

Bagan officials informed that their ground will be ready by August 1. Both the teams, defending champions Bagan and runners-up Peerless SC, were “ready” for the match, by the way.

“We are ready to play. We have been preparing since Day 1. We can play at any ground,” Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna told media persons after Thursday’s training session, a few hours before the match was officially postponed.

The CFL and Durand Cup will be played simultaneously this time, but Kibu, unlike his East Bengal counterpart Alejandro Garcia Menendez, has no complaints. “These are the two competitions we would be playing in and we are prepared.

“I know that sometimes we have to play with not much gap between games. Of course, I’ll make changes in both the tournaments depending on the situation. We have to adapt according to the situation,” Kibu said.

Garcia had on Wednesday made it clear they would be targeting the I-League and the Super Cup.

Bagan have four Spanish players in the squad — Salva Chamorro, Fran Morante, Fran Gonzalez and Joseba Beitia. Kibu feels Salva and Morante, who arrived in the city before their other two compatriots, have adjusted themselves better in the new team.

“Salva and Morante arrived early… So they are doing better. They were with us in Goa. For the other two, they need more time. They have to adapt to the weather and the other conditions. I think both of them are good players and will be ready quickly.”

Former East Bengal player Lalram Chullova joined Bagan amd Kibu thinks his addition to the squad would be beneficial.

“I know Chullova regularly played last season. He can play on both sides. For sure he will help us.”

Though there is no certainty over their first match, Mohammedan Sporting coach Subrata Bhattacharya is hopeful that his team would do well.

“Our preparations went well but we need to play two-three games first, only then can I tell you how’s the shape of my team. Hope we will do well this time,” he said.