It could be symptomatic of how Mohun Bagan are approaching the AFC Cup this term; they were almost 30 minutes late for the media conference ahead of the home leg of the qualifier against Colombo FC here on Tuesday.
It is a slip unlikely to escape the match commissioner Takeyuki Oka’s notice. The official reason for the delay was that midfielder Raynier Fernandes was late in reaching the venue on Monday afternoon. Different explanations that Fernandes was caught in traffic and his vehicle had a flat tyre were being offered by officials of the 127-year-old club, which could be warned or fined for this.
And that isn’t where Mohun Bagan’s lack of preparedness as organisers ends. The media accreditation cards issued says this is a match in the AFC Champions League’s preliminary stage, a competition the club isn’t eligible to play this term.
This, one month after starting an I-League media conference with a backdrop that was from the 2016 Federation Cup. Till late Monday afternoon, I-League branding complete with the title sponsor’s name was visible at the Rabindra Sarovar stadium.
The club has reportedly assured Oka they would be covered before the 7pm kick-off. In 1999, in what was then the Asian Club Championship, Mohun Bagan were banned and fined for refusing to host Jubilo Iwata after losing the away leg 0-8.
All this seemed at odds with how Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen is approaching the match against a team which will miss Nigerian defender Nasiru Opeyemi and striker Afeez Olofin, who scored in the 1-2 loss in Colombo on January 31, because, according to Colombo FC coach Roomy Hassan, they weren’t issued visas. Ivorian medio Seka Jean Yapo is likely to reach on Tuesday, said Hassan.
“We regret not being able to do what Bengaluru FC could. They managed to retain players (for the knockout rounds) while most of ours were loaned from the ISL (Indian Super League). But we showed we could compete in the I-League and the AFC Cup and win the Federation Cup. So, if we qualify, we will discuss this,” said Sen. “For now, this is more important than the derby.”
Norde may play
But because that I-League tie against East Bengal is scheduled for Sunday, Sen said goalie Debjit Majumder would be rested with Shilton Paul taking his place. He also said Haiti international Sony Norde could play in the match where Mohun Bagan could advance even if they lose 0-1.
Last year, Mohun Bagan topped their AFC Cup group but fielding a depleted team lost 1-2 in the pre-quarter final at home to Tampines Rovers whom they had beaten earlier in the season.
Bengaluru FC became the first Indian team to make the final of the second-tier Asian competition.