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Chirag, JCT aiming to be first among equals

sports Updated: Nov 07, 2010 00:49 IST
Tomojit Basu

When Kolkata's Chirag United enter the Ambedkar Stadium for the Durand Cup final here on Sunday, the men in purple will know that they are on the threshold of making history for their young club.

As Chirag United and in their earlier avatar as Everready, this club has won the Sikkim Governor's Gold Cup, the All-Airlines Cup, the Kalna Independence Cup and the E.K.Nayanar memorial meet last year. But by way of major silverware in Indian football they have little to grace the trophy cabinet except trophies like an IFA Shield runners-up laurel in 2005.

That could change on Sunday if they can edge a resilient JCT side from Phagwara. Club director Nabab Bhattacharya said they are looking for support from Bengalis in the capital.

JCT must be hungry for the cup themselves considering that their last success in the 123-year old competition came in 1996. That was also the last time that the men from Punjab won a major national tournament.

In legendary midfielder Parminder Singh, JCT have an able coach who might just be able to break the national competition drought and the Arjuna Award winner would surely love to put a knife through former India colleague and Chirag United coach Subrata Bhattacharya's plans.

"He was a great player and I wish him luck. If we win tomorrow, it will be a great victory as the last time we reached the final was in 2006 and this time we want to go one step further," said Singh, an AFC (Asian Football Confederation) A-licence coach.

JCT have no injuries to contend with, much to Singh's relief. "With everyone fit, I'm glad I have strong bench too. Chirag will not be pushovers and reaching this far has been a huge dose of motivation for my domestic players, who have all been reared by the club," he said.

Bhattacharya too praised his counterpart. "Singh was a great player back in the day, a valuable member of the Indian side with a seasoned sense of football."

With Chirag United also without injury worries barring Junior Elijah who has been rested for this tournament, they are all set to give JCT a run for their money after having beaten a depleted East Bengal side in the semi-final.

"Reaching this final has not been easy but my tactics have paid off so far. It's still a young side and prior to the I-League kicking off, there are departments I need to look at, primarily the defence," said Bhattacharya, who won eight Durand Cups during his time as a defender with Mohun Bagan through the 1970s and 80s. Bhattacharya, who also won the Cup in 2000 as Mohun Bagan coach, made a mention of Mohammad Rafique. It was through Rafique's late goal that Chirag United stunned East Bengal on Thursday.

"He's young and maturity will come in time but so far, his role has been compelling. But that is true for the side in general - they have worked hard and tomorrow we will fight again." Both teams thus have much to prove and few ardent enthusiasts would've expected a Durand Cup final involving the two sides. With two astute coaches in command, both sterling footballers in their heyday, this final may well be one to remember.