“Que Sera, Sera,” said a solicitous Subhash Bhowmick as he ensconced himself in the chair of his hotel room, much to the surprise of the select few of his interlocutors — including yours truly.
It’s not often that the impetuous Bengali, no spurner of adventure, is found in such a resigned state, but then, perhaps, it is not often that his team — Mohammedan Sporting — finds itself confronting such a mammoth task as it will on Friday when it clashes with JCT in the inaugural match of the 11th National Football League at the Ambedkar Stadium here.
As opposed to JCT, who have three foreigners in their ranks, Bhowmick’s team has none —no, he is not a jingoist. To add to his woes, his strike force, comprising HarvindeAs r Singh and the ever-promising Bijen Singh, has been misfiring too often lately. Then, there is the weather — too darn cold, he reckons — and the timetable that both the teams have been handed. With Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurating the tournament, the players have been facing problems as they have been handed the precise time, Army-style, when to warm-up, when to retreat to the dressing room, when to line up, when to shake hands etc, etc — enough for any coach to pull his hair out. But not Bhowmick, whose countenance exhibits a certain naive enthusiasm when he speaks.
“Our strike has been a worry for a long time, since Mike Okoro left. In our country, except Bhaichung Bhutia, foreigners decide matches — and we have none. I can guarantee my team will play good football, though we have to be calculative and cautious,” Bhowmick said.
Asked if that means he would resort to defensive tactics, the pragmatic in Bhowmick arose. “If I go too defensive, JCT will kill and bury us. But in quest for three points, we shouldn’t lose all. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m going for a draw.”
Meanwhile, JCT coach Sukhwinder Singh was found virtually licking his lips one the eve of the match, like a predator smelling his prey. However, he refrained from tempting providence. “The team is in fine fettle but it would be unfair to say that we’ll win. If we play to potential, then yes, we are favourites,” said the genial coach.
Sukhwinder will attack with Chide Edeh and Sunil Chettri/Praveen Kumar, with Adebayo Tokunbo pulling the strings in the midfield. Nigerian centre-back Sunday Ambrose will be on the bench — Anwar and Harpreet Singh will be the two stoppers. However, JCT will miss Sukhjinder Singh, who has a lower-abdomen injury — Bhowmick’s eyes lit up when he was told of Sukhjinder’s absence.
Perhaps, Bhowmick, the wily old cat that he is, was being, well Bhowmick when he underplayed his team’s chances — it might be a subterfuge. He might be lulling JCT into a false sense of security. Whether JCT would be deceived, time will tell. Que Sera, Sera then.