Bhaichung Bhutia has said this was the worst start he has ever had in the National Football League but at Mohun Bagan, no one is reading the riot act yet.
One goal, one point and two losses in three games of the ONGC 11th NFL is not the stuff three-time champions should be made of. Especially, after they crowed to anybody willing to listen in the midst of World Cup excitement, that green and maroon would be the colour of Indian football this season.
Bhutia also stayed away from the clamour for stand-in coach Robson Mattos Oliviera’s head though he accepted that the Brazilian’s inexperience did not help.
“There have been certain decisions that were wrong, like playing Gautam Debnath (against Mahindra United), but that is not the only reason for this. Given our schedule he has not got any time to work on the mistakes either,” the India skipper told HT on Tuesday.
He was speaking after a meeting between players and officials on Tuesday where, according to club’s general-secretary Anjan Mitra, the footballers said they were comfortable with Robson.
Asked about skipper Jose Ramirez Barreto’s poor form, Bhutia said the talismanic Brazilian was not getting much support from the midfield. But he said the biggest contributor to the mess Mohun Bagan now find themselves in is their league schedule, which has meant criss-crossing the country “in not the best of conditions and facilities.”
“The schedule was unfair. Playing in Bangalore and then moving to the extreme cold of Ludhiana and getting to humid Mumbai took its toll. We left our hotel in Ludhiana at 4 am and when we put down our bags in Mumbai, it was close to midnight. In between, we also roamed around the streets of Delhi to kill time,” he said. Bhutia, though, did not want to comment when told that clubs are given a draft of the fixtures before they are approved.
He chimed instead with Robson in pointing out the lack of recovery time after a tiring Federation Cup that followed soon after the IFA Shield and Durand Cup and injuries as other reasons for the current slump.
“The confidence is down but simply blaming the coach isn’t right,” Bhutia said. For the moment, he is looking forward to the next match and the month-long break NFL break thereafter.
“That will give everyone time to settle down and it would be nice if we could get there with a win (against Air-India at home on Saturday),” he said.