The weight of expectations and the pressure cooker situation created by Kolkata’s demanding and crazy football fans, not to forget their officials, have apparently taken a toll on Mohun Bagan coach Stanley Rosario. Anticipating a sack, the former East Bengal coach tendered his resignation to Mohun Bagan secretary Anjan Mitra, thus becoming the fourth coach to resign in a year after Karim Bencherifa, Biswajit Bhattacharya and Satyajit Chaterjee.
Mohun Bagan has started the season on a disastrous note having taken just a single point in their opening three games. After a lackluster draw against Pune FC in their opening match at Balewadi, The Mariners slumped to a shock defeat to newly promoted HAL at the Salt Lake Stadium. Another disaster followed in Goa, with an Odafa inspired Churchill brothers completely destroying them at the Nehru Stadium, much to the shock of Anjan Mitra watching from the stands.
In his resignation letter, Stanley, the former India assistant coach, said “The injury problems that his side was facing were the main reason for his team’s bad start along with poor referring decisions – something that Indian football has become synonymous with over the last few years. Since Mohun Bagan is a formidable club and top contenders in Indian Football, I want the Team should bounce back and bring back the winning attitude. So in this point of time in the greater interest of the Club and the Team, I would like to step down from my job as Chief Coach”.
Rosario – root of the problems?
Stanley took over the reigns at Mohun Bagan in June this year after having failed in his attempt to keep North East side Shillong Lajong in India’s premier club competition during the previous season. He enjoyed moderate success, leading the team to the final of the Federation Cup, before falling at the final hurdle to arch rivals East Bengal albeit due to bad decisions by the referee. They then lost the Calcutta League to East Bengal and were also runners up in the Platinum Jubilee Cup. Probably the ignominy of having to finish runners-up at so many events, with East Bengal taking the honours, was too much for the soft spoken coach from Bangalore.
If one delves deeper into Bagan’s matches it would be clear that Stanley was part of the problem, not the root of it. Mohun Bagan recruiters created a team which was top heavy. Despite knowing the fact that players like Surkumar, Masih will miss out due to the Indian camp, no effort was made to bolster the defence. The lack of a defensive screen in midfield was another problem which was not dealt with. While Jayanta Sen is a decent performer, he is not fully suited for the required role. There is no one to replace him. The scouting done by the officials can be criticized, the U-19 players which Bagan fielded turned out to be their weakest links in KFL matches.
The biggest folly was perhaps inclusion of Diamond Star in PAO quota. The officials delayed the process of inclusion of PAO player, bringing the Australian a few days before the transfer period ended. He was brought in during Bagan’s camp in Siliguri. Since a player had to be included, Stanley had no other option but to include a below standard player. Letting Ruiji Suyeoka leave (who is doing well in Salgaocar) was an obvious mistake.
However, the coach must share the burden of the team’s current condition. While Bagan didnt have a balanced team, they did have a squad which should never be troubled by the likes of Peerless in KFL. Stanley Rosario was too much of a “good-guy” – he was unable to instil fighting spirit in his team.
His tactical awareness can also be questioned. He chose to keep Edeh Chidi on bench during Federation Cup matches. In the last derby with East Bengal, he benched Snehashish Chakravarty, arguably Bagan’s best player this season, while choosing to field just fit Ishfaq Ahmed. In the first I-league match Bagan was leading 1-0 against Pune FC. Bringing on Jayanta Sen to tighten up the defence would have been a logical move. Stanley inexplicably didnt make a single sub and eventually PFC scored a late equaliser. His insistence on playing an ageing Jose Ramirez Barreto in midfield was another mistake. Midfielders in 4-4-2 need to do a lot of running – something the Brazilian cannot do anymore.
Stanley Rosario was a wrong man in wrong place. He was never suitable to coach a club of Mohun Bagan’s stature. He had an AFC ‘A’ license in coaching (one can question AFC’s licensing criteria as Stanley was clearly lacking in some aspects of the game), otherwise he might have never come to manage Bagan. Stanley Rosario was an ordinary coach who wouldn’t turn into a top-class coach overnight. Anjan Mitra, who recruited him in first place must also be blamed. The officials knew what kind of a coach he was, employing him was a mistake in first place.
The Path Ahead
Newly appointed Technical Director Subhash Bhowmik is a perfect choice under current situation. He has an experience of winning trophies, having been a successful coach and player. He was the prime architect behind East Bengal’s memorable ASEAN Cup winning team. Most importantly he knows the pulse of Kolkata football.
Will “Bhombol” act as a saviour for Mohun Bagan?
Mohun Bagan take on defending champions Dempo in a mouth watering clash at the Yuba Bharati Kirarangan. And with Dempo finally hitting some form with a win in their last match against JCT, Bagan couldn’t have asked for a more tougher opposition, especially after the annihilation they received from Goa’s powerhouse in the corresponding fixture last year.
There’s plenty to keep Bagan officials biting their nails and scratching their heads. Their injury list is increasing by the day. Their first choice midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed is still unfit and started on the bench against Churchill Brothers; Okwy Okonkwo Diamondstar is also not match-fit. But injuries aside, their biggest worry has been, without a doubt, the form of their foreign trio of Jose Barreto, Edeh Chidi and new signing from disbanded Mahindra United, Muritala Ali. The goals have dried up for the Green and Maroons with just two goals in three games. Last season’s superstar Muritala Ali – whose goals for Mahindra kept them at pole position for most of the season – has inexplicably fired blanks for them in three games. Barreto looks a shadow of himself – a man widely regarded as the best foreigner to have plied his trade in the subcontinent.
The supply from the midfield isn’t coming either, with Snehashish Chakraborty having produced below par performances in the previous two games. The midfield is definitely missing a creative player, someone who can create chances and supply the strikers with telling passes. The talented lad from Dehradun, Manish Mathani also hasn’t had the best of starts this season. Against Churchill Brothers, the India U-23 midfielder looked completely out of sorts, failing to make any kind of an impression on the game. The squad needs a couple of good midfielders and probably another good quality foreigner to add spice to their game. But with the new transfer window scheduled to open only in January, it looks like they will have to do without any new players for at least another month, by which time the other teams may well open up a gap, leaving them with plenty of catching up to do.
Their next five fixtures are not going to be easy for them by any stretch of imagination. After playing Dempo at home, they travel to Ludhiana – a place which has been a graveyard for many teams – to play JCT who will definitely be at their best now that their long serving India U-23 coach Sukhvinder Singh is back at the helm as Technical Director. They then play an in form Mumbai FC who have taken maximum points from their three matches this season, followed by Viva Kerala at Kannur, Chirag United and then travel back to Goa to face unbeaten Salgaocar. Things certainly could’t get any worse for them.
Its still early in the season to put your money on who will lift the title, but as the saying goes ”Well begun is half done”.
– Jonathan Desousa