After four years,Mohammedan Sporting are back in the top tier of Indian football. A club of their stature,boasting a pan-Indian fanbase,should never have been out of the elite group,but Sporting have suffered due to poor management. Having qualified for the I-League three times in the last 10 years,they were relegated twice,with coaches often departing complaining about too much interference from club officials in football matters. This was the fate suffered by both Shabbir Ali and Biswajit Bhattacharya,who had to go after one bad season despite the fact that they had helped the club qualify for the top division in the first place.
This time,the management needs to learn from those mistakes. They already have shown signs that they are willing to learn from the past. They appointed Sanjay Sen as coach before the I-League qualifiers,and Sen himself suggested that he was allowed to work freely. But competition will increase next season,as will expectations,and club officials will need to be patient if results don’t arrive from the word go.
While they have enjoyed the reputation of being the third major power in Kolkata football,after Mohun Bagan and East Bengal,Sporting have never really matched them in terms of wealth. But that will not mean that they won’t have spending power as they try to gain a top-tier toehold. Last season,title sponsors Emta invested close to Rs 2 crore,and are likely to increase that about three-fold now,with the club’s I-League status confirmed. This should allow them to purchase quality players. The club officials have spoken of building a star-studded team with a couple of top foreign players upfront.
This sounds very good in theory,but the management should know that throwing together a bunch of big names will not guarantee immediate results. Patience will be key. Sporting have only accomplished half of their task,and need to ensure that they haven’t gone up only to go down after a year. In that case,they will be back to square one.
Shamik is a senior staff writer based in Kolkata