Bagan messiah Sanjoy Sen thrives under pressure

With talks of collaborating with the cash-rich ISL taking prominence, Sen opined that the idea will have twin effects.

Published: 21st January 2017 12:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st January 2017 05:08 AM   |  A+A-

Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen (C) (File|EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: On May 31, 2015, Bello Rasaq, the Nigerian defender, scored the equaliser against Bengaluru FC at Sree Kanteerava Stadium to end a long draught. Mohun Bagan had won their first league title in 13 years. The irony here is often unnoticed. A club that never recruited foreigners till Chima Okorie's move from East Bengal in 1991, needed another Nigerian to seal a long-awaited victory.

The historic footballing institution was hit by allegations of corruption against a top official. Since 2007, there were 14 changes in coaches, more than 150 crores spent and they fought a relegation battle in 2013. Enter Sanjoy Sen, a man who is relaxed and aware of the demands from coaches in the City of Joy. Asked if he was the 'Special one' to guide Bagan in the future, he bursts in laughter and says “I am no magician.”

“Even Sir Alex had to wait for four years for his first title. That way, I am fortunate. According to me, 13 years is a long time for a club of Mohun Bagan's stature. Although I never played for Bagan or East Bengal, I have been a part of the Kolkata league for 14 years. I know how passionate people are. Foreign coaches may not know the traditions or the importance of success. That way, I found it a little easy. I was confident about bringing in a change. I even told officials that I will leave if I don't change anything. I will still leave if I feel I am under performing,” Sen told Express.

These are times when football managers are heavily criticised, for a lot of things. Training ground bust-ups or dressing-room conspiracies are common in top European clubs — Diego Costa and Antonio Conte of Chelsea being the latest casualty. When Sen took charge, he was not aware of the existing problems. But his honest approach played a major role in changing the team's mentality. “I have to give full credit to my players. I never interfere in dressing room issues. I believe the dressing room is for players. I don't let officials in either. I was straight forward with my players and expected the same from them. There were issues. Some players were not getting salaries on time. I told them to be patient and positive. I asked them to trust the club and respect the team,” said the 56-year-old.

Though they lost the plot in the last leg last year to finish second, a club so steeped in tradition will always put up a fight. Pressure from fans and the board is high. It is more of a prestige issue. Sen knows it more than anybody. Being branded title favourites does not add pressure. “A club like this participates in any tournament with one goal. And, that is to win. The passion of Kolkata fans is one of the reasons. Even if we draw a match, reaction is huge. People talk about it in their daily lives. Results matter a lot. So there is pressure.”

With talks of collaborating with the cash-rich ISL taking prominence, Sen opined that the idea will have twin effects. “Lots of youngsters are getting a chance to play with established stars. So the ISL is not entirely damaging. They have a great marketing structure and that is why they are getting fans and attention. If the same is done for I-league, I am sure more people will be interested. But it is disappointing that many traditional clubs will not have a national league to play in from next year,” he concluded.

Sanjoy Sen


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