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  Sports   Football  10 Mar 2018  Kolkata giants pipped to the post again

Kolkata giants pipped to the post again

Published : Mar 10, 2018, 2:03 am IST
Updated : Mar 10, 2018, 2:03 am IST

East Bengal were a distinct second at 16,312 and Mohun Bagan third with 15,936.

There are other warning signs for the Kolkata clubs also.  (Representational Image)
 There are other warning signs for the Kolkata clubs also. (Representational Image)

For Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, it is apocalypse now. For the second successive year, they have been pipped at the post for the I-League title by a well-managed, judiciously selected low budget team. In 2017, it was Aizawl FC and now the new champions are Minerva Punjab FC and runners-up, the newly promoted Neroca FC.

There are other warning signs for the Kolkata clubs also. Statistics released by the All India Football Federation revealed that the average turnout increased from 6,500 to 10,210, an upsurge of about 58 per cent. Surprisingly the biggest average turnout was in Imphal. Neroca FC topped the list of the most committed supporters, with an average of 24,494. East Bengal were a distinct second at 16,312 and Mohun Bagan third with 15,936.

So both the Kolkata clubs are not only losing their exalted status on the field but even the tag as the best supported teams in the country. Due to TV commitments, the Kolkata clubs played some home matches at 2pm and this early start on working days also led to a decline in attendance.

The managements of the Kolkata clubs should realise that you cannot fool all the people all the time. Officials and agents influence selection of many average players, whose performances have been inconsistent. For the last two years East Bengal have been let down by inferior goalkeepers, who have committed howlers in crucial matches, that led to points being dropped. East Bengal came second in the 4th, 5th and 7th I-Leagues but since then have slumped and finished outside the top three in 2015 and 2018.

Mohun Bagan were unlucky this season. Their ace winger Sony Norde returned home because of a knee injury and able midfielder Yuta Kinowaki was injured in the third round on the uneven surface at Barasat and missed several games. At the start of the New Year, Bagan were in dire straits with just 10 points from seven matches. Chief coach Sanjoy Sen resigned and Shankerlal Chakraborty took over. With the signing of midfielder Cameroon Watson and striker Akram Moghrabi, Bagan got better and picked up 10 points in their last four matches to finish third overall.

Last season a team from the North_East won the I-League for the first time. This season, W. Khogen Singh, the Manipuri coach of champions Minerva FC is the first from the North-East to guide a team to success in the I-League. Khogen scripted some personal history as well by winning the I-League title in his first season as a coach. He ensured harmony in the squad and made sure the players did not panic. Kudos to owner Ranjit Bajaj for choosing a young coach and young players that finished with 11 wins out of 18 matches, the best in the 11th I-League.

Runners up Neroca’s coach Gift Rai Khan is also from Manipur. So the 11th Hero I-League will be remembered as the season in which coaches from Manipur proved their credentials. For over a decade, players from the North-East have been regularly poached by clubs all over India. Now it could be the turn of the coaches from that region to be in demand.

Tags: mohun bagan, minerva punjab fc