Karim Bencherifa has agreed to return as Mohun Bagans coach. Hopefully,he can help the three-time National League champions to regroup,after four trophy-less seasons. Bencherifa was the coach when Bagan won their last major trophy,the 2008 Federation Cup. Their best finish in the I-League also came under the Moroccan in 2008-09,when they went on a record 10-game winning streak but finished second.
Since Bencherifas departure,Bagans best showing in the league was last seasons fourth place finish. The time between his previous stint and his return has been one of chronic instability at the club,with the club officials changing coaches seven times in four seasons.
In Kolkata football,even the smallest on-pitch stumble can cause fans and the media to react with stinging criticism. The constant chopping and changing of coaches seemed to be a sign of the club officials being too sensitive to the vagaries of public opinion. It also seemed a convenient way for them to sweep their own faults under the carpet.
Bagans academy is one of the oldest in Indian football. But the club has no clear youth policy. Reisangmei Vashum,a product of the academy,left the club and flourished at Churchill Brothers and East Bengal. Shankar Oraon,another academy product,found his footing at United Sports Club. Manish Varghav graduated to the Bagan senior team and scored against arch-rivals East Bengal last year. But he has played very little since.
If Anjan Mitra & Co really wish to change the clubs fortunes,they must change their methods. They must give the new coach time,and strike a balance between results and team-building,and prioritise youth development. Things dont change overnight. Arsenal havent won anything for the last six years. The fans didnt desert the club and Arsene Wenger still is the coach. Bagan officials must also learn to be patient.
Shamik is a senior staff writer based in Kolkata
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