THIS WEEKEND WILL SEE the big guns begin their campaign in the Calcutta Football League, with all 3 of the major Kolkata clubs, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, featuring in high-stakes, televised matches. East Bengal will play Tollygunge Agragami on Saturday, while Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting will play each other on Sunday in the season's first "Kolkata Derby".
East Bengal, who have won the tournament for the last 5 years in a row, will look to equal their own record of winning the CFL 6 times straight back in 1970s. As the Red and Gold fans are gearing up to cheer their team to yet another historic feat, all eyes are on newly appointed East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya.
A renowned former footballer himself, Bhattacharya has represented India as a forward, and played much of his career at East Bengal. A respected figure at the East Bengal tent, his relationship with the club goes back almost 4 decades; first as a player, then in various coaching roles, including being an assistant coach under Trevor Morgan. Now, given the reins of the team for the first time at such a crucial juncture, Bhattacharya has a lot riding on him. But speaking to East Bengal's official Youtube channel, he sounded calm and composed, with sights firm on the target,
"We have never looked for second position. Even when I played we always aimed for the top spot. My vision as a coach remains the same. The spectators, officials and fans (sic) of East Bengal want the team to be the champion. My vision is also the same... we will try our best. We want to play good tournaments, good games."
The CFL is a season-starter tournament for the Kolkata clubs, and the big clubs consider it a good platform to test their youth players ahead of the season's biggest trophies like the I-League. Many of the Indian football stars, including Bhattacharya himself, came out of this very tournament. Elaborating on the importance of having local youth in the team, he said,
"Most clubs bring in foreigners to get an edge over opponents. But those who have played here for a long time know that unless you have good local youth players in the squad it's very difficult to get good results."
And being a local lad himself he understands the enormity of the task he is facing, and the amount of responsibility he currently has on his shoulders. He acknowledged the duty he faced. Addressing the fans, he said,
"I have played for East Bengal as a footballer. I know how you feel about this club. I will try to respect your feelings and vindicate them. Please have patience and support the clubs whole-heartedly; I want to honour the fans and officials who have put their faith on me, and I will motivate the players to do the same."
And nothing would delight the East Bengal fans more than seeing their very own ghorer chele (homeboy) earn them trophies as the coach, as he did as a player.
You can watch the entire interview right here: