Between banter and goodbye came the instruction to have a light, early lunch on match day. It was a process Chirag United coach Subroto Bhattacharya had to repeat because those on his list of 18 for Monday’s I-League match against Mohun Bagan either met him alone or in groups of two or three.
For striker S. Raleng, getting into match-fitness five months after being injured, the need to exercise in the morning too was mentioned. Indian football isn’t immune to change being the only constant of our lives but responsibilities of a coach still go way beyond tactics, man management and scouting.
Especially in clubs without star-studded rosters. From hiring Brazilian physio Djair Garcia Miranda, taking a training ground on lease, holding residential camps and playing consistently in all of their 18 matches except away to Dempo, Chirag United, in their maiden top-tier season, have been quick learners. But Bhattacharya wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
Not against Mohun Bagan, a club whose emblem he was for 17 years, a club whom he guided to two National League titles. And a club whose desperate attempt to revive title hopes begin on Monday.
Since Bhattacharya’s team triumphed in 2002-03, Mohun Bagan (33 points from 17 games) haven’t come this close to winning the League. It is to keep his ‘main actors’ fresh for the next five games that coach Karim Bencherifa rotated players risking criticism and an early exit from the AFC Cup.
Barring Ishfaq Ahmed and Sangram Mukherjee everyone in his first XI have had some rest. Whether it has been enough to battle end-season blues, we’ll know in the next three weeks.