THE NEW TRAILISTS at Mohun Bagan annouced their arrival in style in a practice match against Calcutta Football Club early this morning. Played at the club ground as part of the pre-season training, the Mariners cruised to a 5-0 victory in which most of their on-trial rookies got to play a significant part.
Missing most of his I-League players due to ISL commitments and national duty, Bagan coach Sanjay Sen decided to build his squad for Calcutta Football League from the ground up. Multiple players, especially young ones, showed up for an opportunity to showcase their talents at the reigning champion club of India.
Among the Indian current Indian trialists are Jaipur FC lads Shiv Pratap Singh – fresh from a training stint at Merced Academy, Barcelona – and Dron Bharadwaj who represented Delhi sides City FC and Hindustan FC. Two of the overseas trialists are Nigerian Kenneth Ehis who played for Kano Pillars (Nigeria) and Ajax Cape Town (South Africa), and Ghanaian striker Samuel Yeboah who has an illustrious career that includes being the top goalscorer in the Premier Leagues of Ghana and Israel.
But it was a 5th trialist, Mumbai-born 22-year-old Kean Lewis who played for MLS side Houston Dynamo's U23 team, who stole the show at the practice match. After slowly coming to his own in the first few days of practicing with the team, he was brought on in the 2nd half of the practice match. By the time the final whistle was blown, he had slotted in 3 goals. Two of them was due to his individual brilliance, getting the ball outside or on the edge of the box, dribbling past multiple defenders and making cool finishes. His second goal was rather lucky; a shot aimed straight at the CFC goalkeeper slipped through his fingers.
In the first half it was Samuel Yeboah who opened the scoring, off a pass from fellow trialist Shiv Pratap. After receiving the ball, he fooled two defenders with a quick turn and found the net from a close angle; a finish that underscored his class. The second goal came from Ujjal Howladar, off a pass from Azharuddin Mallick.
Dron Bharadwaj also drew a lot of praise from spectators with his quiik passing and accurate one-touch play, especially in a ground muddied by heavy rain and exhibition matches played yesterday. All in all, the team looked fit. Garcia's summer fitness programme and hard pre-season sessions seem to have paid off. And in spite of having lots of players who only showed up days ago, the coordination did not look half-baked. The squad is shaping up nicely, giving Sanjay Sen multiple options in each position.
Brazillian centre back Gustavo Silva Conceição, who joined the team only days ago, looked slow. After gaining some weight over the summer he is yet to reach full fitness, and the ground conditions were alien to him.
But the rise of Kean Lewis right before the Green & Maroons kick off their CFL campaing may be a life-saver for Sanjay Sen. He has been on the lookout for a positive striker for the local league, and although Yeboah brings in a lot of skill and experience, and former East Bengal forward Dudu Omagbemi has been regularly in touch eager to join the Mariners, the tight financial situation of the club is making the officials think twice before signing an expensive foreigner. A young Indian like Lewis, at this state, would be a massive bargain, or a very reliable backup option at the very least.