Ashley Westwood, Bangaluru FC coach seems to defy FIFA’s rules of Diversity and Anti-discrimination, and this time once again Mohun Bagan officials were at the receiving end. Here is an open letter from one of Mohun Bagan fans for Westwood.
Dear Ashley Westwood,
Back in 2013 when Bengaluru FC played their first ever I-League match and before the time West Block Blues were born, I was present in Bangalore to see your side go up against Mohun Bagan. We had an awful and confused team back then, we barely scraped a draw with a late CS Sabeeth goal. At that time what I did like about your team was how well organized your team was, how every player seemed to know their roles well. It was all good stuff. Then you romped to a well deserved I-League title. A lot of Mohun Bagan fans did appreciate it, especially given you edged out our arch rivals and your brave and courageous attitude was laudable. For five years we had struggled and it was refreshing to see a new club doing well.
Then, something changed. Mohun Bagan, India’s most successful club got their mojo back. Thanks to a man who was never a star during his playing career we began to dream about success yet again. On 31st May, 2015 I was yet again present in the stands when Mohun Bagan silenced the home crowd under a rain soaked sky to seal our 4th National League title.
And then, you begin to reveal your role as a sore, bitter loser. This is where your trash talks start.
Sample 1: “Bagan has won only two away games, which is poor away form. If you want to win the league, you need to win more than two away games”. (31st May, 2015)
Fact: While Mohun Bagan’s away record wasn’t exemplary they on the other hand, had one of the best home records in history of I-League, dropping points just once in ten games. BFC had a better away record but not by much, having lost just one less game on the road. And let us not forget what happened when your team which is supposed to be good on the road, came to Kolkata for your most important away match. You were humbled 4-1. Humbled. And let us not forget how ordinary you were at the so called fortress, dropping almost 40% points at home, you need to do more than that to win the league.
Sample 2: “They’re [Mumbai FC] just a bad team” (28th Jan, 2016)
Fact: In five meetings till date you have NEVER defeated Khalid Jamil’s Mumbai FC. 4 draws and a loss. Now Jamil’s team isn’t the most eye catching in the league but unlike you, they are not bankrolled by a wealthy steel company. Jamil operates with a limited budget and doesnt have luxury of getting the best facilities. Yet he ALWAYS outsmarts you tactically. If they are a “just a bad team” then I wonder what the team which has not beaten them in two and half seasons is.
Sample 3: “He [Sanjoy Sen] doesn’t have a history as a good coach.” (13th Feb, 2016)
Fact: You do? Pray tell us the list of UEFA Champions League and World Cup trophies you have won as a coach before coming down to India. Or did Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers win EPL when you worked as a staff member with them? Sanjoy Sen has won Durand Cup with United SC (despite being assistant coach he coached the team for most of the tournament) then another IFA Shield. He won IFA Shield with Mohammedan SC. He won I-League with Mohun Bagan. That’s double of what you have achieved as a coach. Oh, and lets not forget head to head you have NEVER beaten Sanjoy Sen, got thrashed 4-1 once and then again 0-2 at your own backyard.
Sample 4: “Three players on the pitch should not have been on. Jeje, Pronay Halder and Prabir Das. They were called for the SAG camp and never got sent and nothing was ever done about it. I know for a fact they got called. I have seen the official sheet and spoke to Lee Johnson who confirmed their names. I am quite certain there is a rule, I-League or FIFA rule, stating that you have to release players for the camp.
“We did, and it ended up killing us today as we missed Udanta (Singh). He scored three goals and we could have done with him today. We release and no one else does. It is not a fair playing field,” (13th Feb, 2016)
Fact: Firstly, SAFF Games is NOT a FIFA tournament. It doesnt affect the FIFA rankings and it is not even the main tournament of SAFF. So FIFA rules don’t quite carry the same weight for it and any club can well enough choose to release any players they want. Mohun Bagan released one player Pritam Kotal, same as Bengaluru FC. Udanta Singh is a great prospect but we are all sure that he isn’t the explosive combination of Messi, Ronaldo, Pele and Maradona that you are making him out to be. No one else releases players? You mean the Indian team which played a whole tournament was solely made up with BFC players?
Sample 5: “Mohun Bagan have been fortunate. They’ve been looked upon favourably. They got one of their games postponed and another brought forward. They actually got drove to the airport by the AIFF, so they’ve been more fortunate than us, ” (12th Feb, 2016)
Fact: AIFF didn’t drive Mohun Bagan to airport. It was done jointly by Mohun Bagan and DSK officials.
Secondly, while we are on the topic of being looked upon favourably by AIFF, I wonder what your views are regarding the fact that first SIX games BFC played in their title winning season were all home games. Those matches helped BFC to build a momentum which carried them through. How about the fact that AIFF has also helped out BFC by securing them from any chances of a relegation in first 3 seasons. If these aren’t favours from AIFF, then we need to have a different definition of the word.
Mr Westwood, you are not the first foreign coach in India. Nor the first one to win I-League or Fed Cup. Foreigners who won it before you didn’t look down upon Indian coaches like you do (despite having a better CV). Armando Colaco, a man who won five I-League titles had a grudge against Kolkata clubs but never did he doubt the coaching credentials of his rivals. If you think this atmposhere of hostility that you are trying to create will be something like what Sir Alex Ferguson used to do in Aberdeen or Manchester United, then you are sorely mistaken. Fans in Kolkata aren’t based on the lovey dovey European model of chants and banners. And I am sure unlike travelling Mohun Bagan fans, hundred of whom made it to Kanteerva, not many of four club’s fair weather fans will make the trip to Barasat stadium. Given your boorish statements in media recently Mohun Bagan fans are likely to give you and your team a welcome you may not have received in India till date.
[Somnath Sengupta is an urdent Mohun Bagan fan and lives in Pune, India.]