From the last edition of the Federation Cup to Thursday, life has come a full circle for East Bengal and Stanley Rozario.
Since that fateful semifinal against Mohun Bagan, on December 18, 2008, East Begal have sacked two coaches, beginning with Rozario. Philippe de Ridder is now at the helm and after Thursday’s 2-0 win against Mohun Bagan, it looks like order has been somewhat restored.
For Rozario, however, it’s time for a different battle, one for a higher glory. “Definitely, those feelings come back sometimes. But it’s the third time I’m meeting East Bengal after I was removed and I can’t possibly think about it (being sacked) all the time,” said Rozario, who was with East Bengal in the last edition of this tournament.
For the 46-year-old, it was the 1-0 win against East Bengal in the Durand Cup that was the most satisfying. “I fulfilled my ambitions in that match with my boys from Lajong FC. All my emotions, energy and passion were devoted to winning against East Bengal on that day and I succeeded in achieving what I wanted,” said Rozario.
“But it’s a different test for us now. With Yusif Yakubu playing the way he does and without two important foreigners (Daniel Bidemi and James Gbilee, both suspended), Sunday’s final is going to be tough for an inexperienced team like us. But still, we will play with our hearts out.”
Aware that the job is still half-done, East Bengal seemed subdued after the conquest of Mohun Bagan. Some bubbly did flow at the team hotel but the celebrations weren’t that of team whose season so far has been ordinary.
“You simply cannot take Lajong FC lightly, especially after they defeated Dempo and Churchill Brothers. Their most important strength is their unity. We will suffer if we are relaxed against them,” said Bhaichung Bhutia.
East Bengal coach Philippe De Ridder conceded that Lajong FC are the fitter side. “We may not be as fit as them but, definitely we have other qualities which will come in handy.”