Brancos return a shot in the arm for green-and-maroons
On a day when state sports minister Subhas Chakraborty set a 10.30am deadline for the Maidan clubs,to be effective from February 16,Mohun Bagan got a shot in the arm. Their young striker Branco Cardozo returned to practice after a long injury lay-off and impressed one and all during a warm-up game against George Telegraph at the club ground today.
Yesterday,Mohun Bagan and the Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) were at each others throat over sharing the ground as the BHA claimed that as per rules,Maidan belonged to the hockey association from February to May. But Mohun Bagan refused to budge and continued with their practice at the club ground.
Today,Mohun Bagan general secretary Anjan Mitra,along with BHA secretary Gurbux Singh,met the sports minister and an amicable solution was reached.
After the meeting,Chakraborty said: The grounds in the Maidan belong to the state government. The BHA has the right to use the grounds from February to May. But taking into account everything (the ongoing I-League),permission has been granted to the football teams to use their grounds till 10.30am. As for Bagan,they are currently on top of the I-League. So,they can use Yuba Bharati Krirangan (YBK) for practice. If they want to practice under lights,we will make the arrangements.
Chakraborty also had some words of encouragement for the BHA officials. He said that the government would help them in setting up an Astroturf at Dumurjola in Howrah.
Mitra,on the other hand,said that they were not fully satisfied with the decision but will cooperate (with the government and the BHA). This year we are making a compromise,but things have to change next year, Mitra told this daily. From February 16 onwards we will practice under lights at YBK thrice a week, he added.
Meanwhile,with the important I-League match against Md Sporting scheduled on Sunday,Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa,however,kept his focus solely on the on-field affairs and tested his reserve bench in a practice match against George.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw,but Bencherifa had a lot of positive to take from it. Brancos performance was a big bonus. The youngster,who has just recovered from a hamstring injury,gave his 100 per cent,wasnt afraid of going for a 50-50 ball.
He,however,will not figure in the playing XI on Sunday. It will take time for him to be match fit, said Bencherifa.
Bagan are yet to beat Md Sporting this season. The I-League first-leg encounter between the two ended in a 1-1 draw. Earlier,in the Kolkata league,Md Sporting beat Bagan in the first leg,while the teams shared spoils in the return leg.
Asked about this,Bencherifa said: Sundays match will be different. We are back to full strength now and the team is playing well. They are a good team and it will be a tough match. Its important for us to keep the momentum going.
The Bagan coach feels that the next three matches will be crucial for his teams chances of winning the I-League. Bagan currently top the table with 30 points from 14 matches.
According to Bencherifa,Churchill Brothers,along with East Bengal and Dempo are their main threats. Bagans match against Churchill that was originally scheduled on March 7 will now be played on March 4,while the match against Dempo will be played after Bagans AFC Cup first round tie.
It would have been better if we would have played the Dempo match before the AFC Cup tie, Bencherifa said.