KOZHIKODE:In the end, even a win wouldn’t have been enough for Mohun Bagan to lift the I-League title at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode on Thursday, but a sense of disappointment was writ large on their players’ faces at the end of a day which began with a lot of promise for the Mariners.
The 1-1 draw with Gokulam Kerala FC, as Henry Kisekka cancelled Bagan’s opener by Aser Dicka, meant that Bagan finished third in the table with 31 points — level with East Bengal but ahead on head-to-head record and below champions Minerva Punjab FC and runners-up NEROCA FC, who finished with 35 and 32 points respectively. “It was a tough match against a very good team like Gokulam. But we created six chances during the game but our inability to convert them cost us the match like many times this season” said Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty.
However, their final league position is something that he and the management will not be that proud of. “For a big club like Mohun Bagan, finishing second, third or fourth is a big disappointment,” he said.
“But it is not to say there were no positives. Our record away from home, where we didn’t lose a single match, is something to be proud of. Also, the development of young Indian players like Azharuddin Mallick, Bimal Gharti Magar and Raynier Fernandes is something to look forward to,” he said.
Chakraborty was critical of the 3 pm kickoff as players from both sides drained in the Kozhikode heat. “Minerva did not have a floodlight so all games had to be played simultaneously in the afternoon which wasn’t ideal,” said the Bagan coach. His counterpart Bino George also stressed the point saying they “were told not to play at Malappuram because the stadium had no floodlight while no one questioned Minerva”.
For Bino, it is back to the drawing board as he is already planning for the club’s second season. “We are going to bring in new foreigners for the Super Cup, and before the start of the next season, we want more Kerala footballers based outside the state in the team,” Bino said.
“We are also planning an exposure trip to Dubai. Our aim is to have as many Kerala footballers in the league so that Indian football, like in the 1990s, will be dominated by players from our state once again,” Bino said.