A clutch of Mohun Bagan players met on Monday at a city hotel and decided to boycott the Mohun Bagan Day celebrations on July 29. Subrata Bhattacharya, Prasun Banerjee, Sisir Ghosh, Prashanta Banerjee, Basudeb Mandal, Gautam Sarkar, Aloke Mukherjee, Krishnendu Roy, Atanu Bhattacharya, Bidesh Bose, Compton Dutta, Debasish Mukherjee, Mihir Bose, Subir Ghosh, Jagadish Ghosh, Dulal Biswas, Kesto Mitra, Manas Bhattacharya, Amit Bhadra, Samaresh Chowdhury were present to sign a document voicing their concern against the ill functioning of their former club by the current ruling group.
"There are quite a few reasons for this protest," said Subrata Bhattacharya. "Firstly, the ruling faction doesn’t know how to treat ex players of Mohun Bagan. Secondly, officials never found us fit to be consulted on any club related issues. Thirdly, they have fascination for foreign coaches when there are several local coaches who have produced far better results."
Anjan Mitra, however, said, "It’s good that they are planning charity events. If they are true blue Mohun Bagan fans, we respect their own way of celebrating the auspicious day. As far as their grievances are concerned, we can always sit and sort out the matter across the table."
The football season in Kolkata has always been a high-voltage affair. The traditional rivalry between the two football clubs, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal has been there for ages. Although the season is scheduled to start from the middle of August, the present scenario is in no way uneventful. All of a sudden, a group of disgruntled football players, of yesteryears, with questionable integrity, led by Subrata Bhattacharya have woken up from their slumber, ganged up together, and are crying themselves hoarse for what they claim to being continuously ignored by the Mohun Bagan Club administrative body. Members and the countless supporters of the Club will. however. not be unduly perturbed by this agitation.
The disgruntled ex-players feel that the Club is not functioning properly under the ruling group, that they are being continuously ignored and their services are not being utilized at all for the development in the Club within. All of a sudden, they have turned chauvinistically India and one of them with an eye for the coveted job, is agitating for replacing the Club’s present Moroccan coach, Karim Bencherifa and parking himself as Head Coach.
Mohun Bagan under A license holder Morrocan coach Karim Bencherifa, won the Kolkata Premier League, Federation Cup and the Super Cup and narrowly ending runners-up in the I-League. Karim Bencharifa has done Bachelor of Sports from Morocco and also an A licence course in Morocco which qualifies him to coach top teams of Morocco as well as the national team of Morocco. Morocco is presently ranked 55 in world and India is 147. At one point, Morocco even were in the 30s in FIFA world ranking. When AFC went through his papers, they said that the Diploma from the University of Leipzig in Germany which Karim has done few years back is equivalent to AFC B license and so he will have to do only AFC A licence.
So has the officials done any wrong by recruiting this qualified coach from Morocco, when most importantly he has delivered? After the completion of a successful season of Mohun Bagan, when team has united for preseason training, instead of coming and cheering the players and attending practice sessions, these ex-players are targeting Karim unnecessarily and this might cause undue tension among the players and will keep coach in pressure. Is this the duty of ex-players?
We should not forget that coach of India at present is a foreigner, Bob Houghton. Then they should again question why there is a foreign coach in India when there are so many eligible ex Mohun Bagan players would could be coach of India.
A coach should be judged by his performance and not whether he is from India or outside. Saying that Karim is a "foreign coach" is a racist statement by itself.
About ex-players, Subrata Bhattacharya has been the coach of East Bengal in recent past and at present is the coach of Chirag United. How many ex players of Mohun Bagan have he taken as Manager or Assistant coach during his coaching stint in these two clubs? Few years back, when he became coach of Mohun Bagan, these present set of officials had decided to appoint Pradip Chowdhury and Compton Dutta as advisor of Subrata, so that he can function better. Subrata at that time had said, "Even if President of India comes, I will not take anyone’s advice."
Prashanta Banerjee said, "I am an A license holder, why don’t Mohun Bagan take me as coach?" They should remember that Mohun Bagan is the National Club of India and here coach will have to deliver result, which at present Karim is giving. Few days back, asst. coach A licence holder Mridul Banerjee said, "It is not important whether after having A licence with me, I am working as assistant coach or not. I want to work, I want myself to be involved with football coaching. The new job which I have got this year has the name "coach" with it, that is enough for me, I don’t mind at all being assistant coach."
Mr. Banerjee also added, "Only doing A licence will not help, how the person performs in field is very important. Whether he can deliver, what he has learnt, to the players is a very essential quality which is required. Plus officials should have confidence on the person. Last year East Bengal officials and this year Mohun Bagan officials found me suitable for this job and has selected me. I have lot of experience of coaching from lower division to higher division. I have been coach of Bengal in the past and also of Mohammedan Sporting where I did more or less okay job. Actually the main thing is not the degree, yes it is an essential requirement, but how you deliver and perform in field is most important. The performance should speak for you and not degree." Unfortunately, few ex-players of Mohun Bagan doesn’t have this mentality.
What do these ex-players expect? From its onset in 1889, numerous players have played for Mohun Bagan. They have played with glory and now have retired. Mohun Bagan club is open for everybody, they can come, attend practice sessions, sit in the lawn, interact with members, and spend time in the club. We have seen Pranab Ganguly, late Mangal Purakayastha and many others coming daily to club and interacting with members in evening. It is not possible for officials to take advice from each and every ex-player; however, if they come and want to interact with officials and want to share their opinion, they are always welcome to do so in the National Club of India.
We have seen in recent past, Mohun Bagan officials donated Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 30,000 respectively to Ashok Chatterjee and Dipu Das respectively. They even contributed a hefty amount to family of Sanjib Jana, who died before Fed cup final by falling from stands.
Even when we from www.mohunbaganclub.com contributed to his family, our coach Karim, whom these few ex players are targetting contacted us personally and contributed a significant amount and even after winning Fed Cup, he dedicated the trophy to all fans with special mention of Mr. Jana. During the penultimate round match of I league against Dempo, during the injury time when scoreline was 1-1, we have seen coach turning towards the spectators and asking them to cheer and eventually Mohun Bagan scored in the dying moments of injury time and won that match. This showed that Karim being a foreign coach is well connected with fans and even though he is here in Mohun Bagan on a professional assignment as a coach, his heart is with Mohun Bagan at present.
As an arm-twisting measure these footballers have decided to boycott the celebrations and evening dinner to be held in the Club lawn, on the 29th July, observed as Mohun Bagan Day. This day for the Club is synonymous to what 15th August is to every true Indian. As usual, this coming 29th July, all supporter and members of Mohun Bagan club will come in numbers and enjoy the day and there will be many ex-players also present, many of whom will participate in an exhibition match. Other than those 20 players, there are hundreds and thousands of ex-players who still feel proud to come to Mohun Bagan club on the auspicious day.
Incidentally, the relationship amongst the members of this group, during their playing days was less than cordial. Their coming together now is more of a marriage of convenience. Few years back during Mohun Bagan day, Amit Bhadra was slapped by Subrata Bhattacharya in club tent. Also we have an interview of Krishnendu Roy who after leaving Mohun Bagan blamed Subrata Bhattacharya for his departure.
Regarding honor, perhaps Mohun Bagan is the only club where there is an award called Mohun Bagan Ratna by which the club honors the ex-players on Mohun Bagan day. Till now Sailen Manna, T. Aao, Late Shibdas Bhaduri, Goshto Pal, Chuni Goswami, Umapati Kumar, Dhiren Dey, Sattar has received the honors. Then how come there is a question that ex-players don’t get respect in Mohun Bagan?
True Mohun Bagani, Sailen Manna said, "I am not well, but I will definitely try my level best to attend Mohun Bagan day. Mohun Bagan has not won I league in many years, I wish Mohun Bagan win the league this year, that is my main wish right now, instead of participating with the ex-players." Chuni Goswami, Satyajit Chatterjee, Shibaji Banerjee are among the many ex-players who did not attend the meeting along with the 20 ex-players.
It will be most welcome if these players come and attend Mohun Bagan day this year and celebrate it with the fans and later on discuss their grievance with the officials. General Secretary Anjan Mitra has already contacted and requested them to sit in a meeting which, however, unfortunately they have declined to do.