Whether the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has lost the plot somewhat by hosting the Federation Cup as a curtain-raiser to a gruelling season is an argument many would like to have a say in. Among them Shillong Lajong coach Pradyum Reddy.
"Had it been important, the Federation Cup would have been hosted mid-season and not pre-season when teams are looking to avoid injuries," he said, one day before the semi-final against I-League champions Salgaocar in Kolkata.
Runners-up in the 2009 edition after upsetting Dempo and Churchill Brothers, Lajong FC, therefore, are taking Sunday's semifinal as a 'practice match'. If they win, the final will be another practice match for the team, according to their coach.
We are ready: Karim
Goan team Salgaocar, coached by Karim Bencherifa, have been given a ludicrous schedule that has them travelling from Pune to play the the first semifinal. With almost a day spent in travelling from Pune to Kolkata, and one 90-minute session at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan later, Bencherifa though said his team is ready to be in the reckoning.
"We have got just one session while our rivals have got two on the artificial turf. But make no mistake, Salgaocar are ready," said Bencherifa, who was uncharacteristically reserved.
"It's a quality side and I have coached some of their (Lajong) players as well (as coach of Mohun Bagan) so I know what they can do," he said.