According to Sports Planet in Zee Sports, Karim Bencharifa and Sangram Mukherjee has been selected as best coach and best goalkeeper of I league, though official confirmation has not yet been received by both of them. Federation Cup Champion Mohun Bagan team will go to Gurgaon tomorrow to play their Super Cup match against I league champion Churchill Brothers. The match will be held on April 26th in Gurgaon. Last year Mohun Bagan beat Dempo 4-0 to win Super Cup. The 18 member team for Super Cup is: Sangram, Shilton, Rahul, Manju, Dipak, Vashan, Mohanraj, Habibur, Ishfaq, James Sr., Lalkamal, Rakesh, Lalramluah, Marcos, Barreto, Branco, Bhaichung and Tulunga.
Coach, we heard you are being selected as the best coach of I league.
Karim: Thanks but I have not got any official confirmation of this yet from AIFF. I saw this in yesterday’s Sports Planet in Zee sports. You know, I would have been more happy if Mohun Bagan would have won the I league. We fought till last round but just could not manage to reach the goal. But if the news is true, then I would first like to thanks All India Football Federation and dedicate this fully to my players without whom I am nothing and also to the officials of Mohun Bagan club who has given full support to me. We have worked as a team. Of course, you know, I make plans and strategies but ultimately it is the players who implement them in field, so this reward is for them only.
What do you think was the main reason?
Karim: See I don’t want to look back in the past and the mistakes we made in the past. Right now, we will try our best to win Super Cup. But yes, talking about I league, first few matches we faltered, I think that cost us the I league, many key players were injured at that time.
Coming to AFC Cup, what went wrong in Kuwait?
Karim: We were completely outplayed by the Kuwait team. They were much superior side. In Kolkata, we played with our full team against their second team (6 key players were absent from their team) but still we could not penetrate much. Whereas in Kuwait, they got their full team and we did not have 3 important players Bhaichung, Odafa and Mama. Bhaichung and Odafa are first team players and both of them are very good aerial ball players, especially during setpieces.
50% of the reason that we lost the match was due to their superior quality and physique, we were completely outplayed by them. 25% I can be blamed because may be I was not able to motivate the players enough to play well and the remaining 25% reason I don’t want to discuss here.
Kuwait SC dominated the match and we were 2-0 down within 20 minutes. After that, we started controlling the game a bit but was not able to penetrate their defence. We tried to hold the ball and attack but soon after we conceded 2 more goals against run of play and match was over in first half only.
AFC quoted you as saying we lost due to mistake by goalkeeper and defence?
Karim: I was misquoted. I never criticize my player. What I said was we had a bad game and Kuwait SC played well, dominated the match and won comfortably. Actually it was the Kuwait coach who said that Mohun Bagan played so well in Kolkata but here I think their defence and goalkeeper let them down. It was his opinion and not mine. Actually I was speaking in English and not Arabic. Though I know Arabic, I prefer to speak in English so that my players and staff understand what I am saying. May be the person who was translating made a mistake.
Are you confident about Super cup?
Karim: We will definitely try our best. We are extremely exhausted now. It is not possible for any team to do so much flying and then playing within such a short period of time. We played against Dempo on 12th, 14th we went to Delhi, 16th we played against Mahindra, 17th morning we came back, 18th we took flight for Kuwait via Dubai, 20th we reached there, 21st we played match there, 23rd evening we reach Kolkata via Dubai (spending the night there), 25th morning we are leaving for Gurgaon to play the match against Churchill on 26th. This whole schedule is difficult even for a normal person who does not have to run and play in the field for 90 minutes. Now you can imagine the condition of our players at the present moment. Hopefully, we will be able to give our best on Sunday and win Super Cup.
We heard Sangram has been selected as best goalkeeper?
Karim: Yes, I saw it in the news yesterday in Sports Planet in Zee Sports. There were 3 contenders for best coach, myself, Derek and Zoran. Sangram is chosen best goalkeeper, Gourmangi best defender. In midfield, Marcos was one of the three contenders for best midfielders, Kalu won it. Odafe got two awards, best forward and best player. Marcos was also contender for best player of I league. But again I have no official confirmation for all of this. I am telling you what I saw in TV.
Have you decided on the 18 member team for Super Cup?
Karim: Out of the 17 players who went to Kuwait (Sangram, Shilton, Rahul Kumar, Manju, Dipak, Vashan, Mohanraj, Habibur, Ishfaq, James Sr., Lalkamal, Rakesh, Lalramluah, Marcos, Barreto, Branco and Lalampuia were part of Kuwait team), Bhaichung will be included in the team and Lalampuia will be replaced by Tulunga. About goalkeeper, I have not yet decided. Sangram is slightly injured, if he does not go, Chiradeep might go in his place, will take the final decision today evening.
We also had a short telephonic interview with Sangram Mukherjee.
Congrats for becoming best goalkeeper of I league.
Sangram: Actually I also heard this news but have not got any confirmation yet. I hope it becomes true. I would be very happy. I last got this reward last 6 years back when I was in East Bengal, EB had won I league that year.
In the last match we conceded 6 goals.
Sangram: That was just an accident. Actually the penalty that we conceded in 9th minute changed the complexion of the game. After that we were completely outplayed by Kuwait SC.
Do you think Mohun Bagan will be able to win Super Cup?
Sangram: Definitely we have a big chance. Last year also we defeated Dempo and won Super Cup. This year we will have to avenge defeat against Churchill and win the trophy.
Have you decided to stay in Mohun Bagan next year?
I have not made any decision as of yet. I have offers from many clubs. I will make my decision later on. I have contract of Mohun Bagan till May 31.
INTERVIEW: Shiladitya Mitra