Before teams from that state really happened on the Indian football scene, he had taken Salgaocar to the National League title. Having played a part in the emergence of Goa, Shabbir Ali, almost a decade later, is trying something more arduous — the resurgence of Mohammedan Sporting.
For the moment, doing a Salgaocar is a bridge too far. “When we qualified from the second division last season, everyone asked whether Mohammedan Sporting would go down again. So, my priority is to save relegation. Our performance in the Kolkata league though has given me hope that we can do well,” Mohammedan Sporting’s 53-year-old coach said on Sunday, ahead of his I-League opener against Air India at Barasat.
Beating East Bengal to the second place behind Mohun Bagan is something Mohammedan Sporting hadn't done for long and so, Shabbir isn't being optimistic without reason. Giving hope to the club with India's biggest fan base is the form and availability of Mike Okoro, Thoedore Wrobeh and Adewusi Adebayor.
Okoro and Wrobeh scored 17 of the team's 25 goals in the local league. So when Okoro said theirs was the best foreign duo in the local league, he wasn't imagining things.
Shabbir made light of Okoro resting, and said the Nigerian Pole is a great teamman. Back from a leg injury, Wrobeh, whose 11 goals fetched him the Kolkata league's golden boot, isn’t though may not be match fit for his I-League debut though he should start.