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Purple patch through modest goals for Chirag

After painting the Durand Cup purple, it will take some doing to keep Chirag United out of the elite band in Indian football that now comprises Dempo, Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Barring the disbanded Mahindra United, that quartet has won every major tournament in Indian football since 2007.

sports Updated: Nov 09, 2010 00:44 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

After painting the Durand Cup purple, it will take some doing to keep Chirag United out of the elite band in Indian football that now comprises Dempo, Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Barring the disbanded Mahindra United, that quartet has won every major tournament in Indian football since 2007.

Thirteen years ago another new club won the Durand Cup with a lot of fanfare but unlike the FC Kochi, who rose like a jet plane and sank with the speed of one, everything about Chirag United has been gradual. They have always set modest goals and then tried overreaching them.

They spent the first season in the I-League in 2008-09 focussing on surviving the chop. It proved beyond Lajong FC and Mohammedan Sporting who, between them, symbolise the new and the old in Indian football. Last season, they became the I-League's pacesetters.

They also won an invitation meet in Kerala and ran Mohun Bagan so close in the Kolkata League that the title was decided in the last round and following a contest between the two teams. Sunday's triumph thus was instead a statement of arrival following a measured build-up.

Through the upswing in fortunes, they have regularly lost players.

They gave Subair Muritala Ali a platform before he went to Mahindra United and returned to Mohun Bagan on an annual salary rumoured to near Rs 1 crore.

Last season, Snehasish Chakraborty came to Mohun Bagan and this time Sandip Nandy, Gouranga Dutta, Jayanta Sen, Kingshuk Debnath and R. Dhanarajan shifted allegiance.

But like with their aspirations, they planned purchases, retained the core player group and got Brazilian striker Josimar Martins, whose pass was converted by rookie Mohammed Rafique on Sunday, on a two-year contract. Such belief in youth and continuity is imperative in the running of a football club on an annual budget of Rs 5-6 crore, around Rs 3 crores less than East Bengal whom they beat in the Durand Cup semifinals.

They also took a training ground on lease and, while Mohun Bagan and East Bengal got stuck on a technicality, managed to meet the guidelines of professionalism set by the Asian Football Confederation.

Moreover, while coaches have come and gone at Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers and East Bengal, Subroto Bhattacharya has stayed on at Chirag United since 2008, a stint surpassed only by his time at Mohun Bagan. Their Brazilian physio, Djair Garcia, is into his second season and assistant coach Anjan Nath has been with the team since it began its journey as Ever-ready in the fifth division in Kolkata football 17 years ago.

And through this incredible journey from the bottom of the Kolkata league to the top of a tournament is in its 123rd edition, everyone at the club has stayed humble.

Modesty, it seems, is an attribute that's hardwired into the club bankrolled by a computer company.

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