East Bengal are finally well and truly in the race for the I-League crown this term after a string of positive results. The Kolkata giants recorded three wins on the trot to move into third place in the standings with 37 points from 21 matches, just four points adrift of leaders Bengaluru FC, who have played a game more. And a large chunk of East Bengal’s title charge should be credited to their coach Armando Colaco. The former Dempo boss took charge of the Red and Gold midway through the season when the club was in total disarray. East Bengal were knocked out of the semi-finals of the AFC Cup and were a very inconsistent side in the I-League. On top of that, the ambiance in the dressing room was far from perfect following the players’ fall-out with previous coach Marcos Falopa. However, the experienced Colaco has managed to steady the ship in the vital part of the campaign as East Bengal are looking like a cohesive unit willing to give their all to lift the country’s top domestic trophy. But despite the club being in the title race, some club officials and a large number of East Bengal supporters does not want Colaco in the Red and Gold hot-seat next season. Their prime choice is former coach Trevor James Morgan; but here are some reasons as to why we think the Goan is more suited for the job.
Experience of Winning Five League Titles with Dempo
Colaco guided Dempo to five national league titles (NFL and I-League combined), the most by any coach. The Goan outfit were a force to reckon with during his 13-year stint at the club as they were always in the running for the title. The 60-year-old is fully aware of what is needed to lift the I-League trophy and East Bengal too are benefiting from Colaco’s title winning pedigree. Even if East Bengal fail to win the title this season, Colaco should be given another chance to prove his credentials. As mentioned earlier, the Goan took charge of East Bengal midway through the season and it is only fair to say that he should be given a full season before judging him. He has done a great job in keeping East Bengal in the title hunt and it should be remembered that it is never easy to manage a team which one has not build. It seems Colaco is East Bengal’s best bet to win the country’s top-division after almost a decade. A point to be noted here is that despite coming close, Morgan failed to lift the I-League in his full three seasons at the club.
Stress on Indian Players
During his time at Dempo, Colaco relied heavily on Indian players for success unlike many of his counterparts. The shrewd tactician was aware that a solid group of Indian players are required for continued success besides talented foreign players. Indians like Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda, Mahesh Gawli and Sameer Naik were the pillars of strength for Dempo as their experience of playing for the national side showed during their outings for the club. In addition, Colaco also unearthed young talents like Joaquim Abranches and Anthony Pereira. With a strong pool of Indian players at his disposal at East Bengal, it will not be long before Colaco starts casting his magic once again.
Colaco is also famous for his ability to adapt to any situation. At East Bengal, he always had to fight with the shadow of Morgan, but he never complained unlike his predecessor Falopa. Add to that the injuries to a number of first-team regulars like James Moga, Uga Okpara and Mehtab Hossain. But despite these hurdles, Colaco has managed to keep East Bengal in the title race. He has never grumbled due to his depleted side and has instead focused on bringing out the best from the rest of his charges. East Bengal being on the heels of Bengaluru FC sans a handful of important players bears testimony to this fact.
The Goan is great at man-managing and is always able to get every ounce of talent available from his charges, even when he does not share the most cordial of relationships with a certain player. For example, Colaco is not the best of friends with Ryuji Suyeoka. The Japanese, who formerly played under him at Dempo, was visually miffed after the coach substituted him in a game. However, Colaco has tactfully not let the fall-out come in the way of Sueoka’s performance as the midfielder’s stellar displays in the past few weeks has helped East Bengal to surge up the I-League table. Same can be said about Moga, who shares a cold relation with Colaco. But the striker scored some crucial goals this season before getting injured. On the flip side, Colaco is not afraid to take bold decisions as his mantra is “perform or perish.” Senior players like Saumik Dey and Naoba Singh currently find themselves down the pecking order behind youngsters after a string of poor outings.
Willing to Take Up New Challenge
Not many coaches would have dared to take up the challenge of managing a Kolkata club after a super successful career elsewhere. But Colaco took it, and thus became the first Goan couch to ply his trade in Kolkata, where coaches are hired and fired at the smallest of pretexts. Colaco knew things will not be easy in the City of Joy and it was not, however, he took it in his stride and is now close to lifting his sixth domestic league title. Colaco falls in the category of the rare breed of coaches, who are unwilling to bask in the glory of his previous accomplishments, but instead looks forward to tasting more success.
Only time will tell whether Colaco becomes a successful coach at East Bengal, but the keen learner of the game has surely made his first step in the right direction at the club. He failed to win the IFA Shield and the Federation Cup, but guided the Red and Gold to their fourth successive CFL triumph in his debut season. However, whether East Bengal manage to get their hands on the much awaited I-League trophy this season remains to be seen.