East Bengal’s Spanish coach Mario Rivera is confident that he would be retained by the club management next season even as title sponsor Quess is set to part ways after an abrupt end to the season due to Covid-19 pandemic.
East Bengal finished a distant second in the I-League under Rivera, who was recruited by the team’s principal sponsors, who are on their way out.
“I’m taking part in the decision and I gave them my suggestions about Indian players. They have said to me that they want me for the next season and I always trust in the ‘Word’ of the people and I always respect it,” the 42-year-old told PTI in an exclusive interview before leaving for his country.
The Bangalore-based Quess Corp, who were East Bengal’s title sponsors, have already made an early exit and terminated all existing contracts by implementing ‘Force Majeure’ clause in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But that has not stopped the cash-strapped East Bengal as they are on a signing spree and have recently brought back their former players in Bikash Jairu, Cavin Lobo, and the talented Sehnaj Singh, who has won both I-League (Mohun Bagan, 2014) and ISL (ATK, 2020).
They have earlier signed PIO player Omid Singh from Persian Gulf Pro League along with the Indians — Shankar Roy, Balwant Singh, and Novin Gurung from Mohun Bagan, ATK, and Real Kashmir respectively.
“It’s a difficult time to make a team because COVID-19 has changed many things. I think the teams that will keep almost the same squad from last season will have a big advantage at the start,” he continued.
Citing the example of fellow Spaniard and reigning I-League-winner Kibu Vicuna, he said: “The recipe for a good coach is hard work plus the confidence of management in him. I’m so excited to think to start a new season with all the knowledge of these two seasons of Indian football, I really would like to do it.”
Rivera, who had worked as Alejandro Menendez’s deputy for 32 games in 2018-19, was brought in as a replacement for the famed Spaniard after they started off the New Year with a hat-trick of losses, including a 1-2 derby debacle before the latter was sacked.
Having worked under Menendez, Rivera feels the former Real Madrid B team coach had ‘destroyed’ the team.
“I don’t know what he did, I know I found a team destroyed, without confidence and under big pressure. It was impossible to know after 3-4 practice sessions, I was surprised because I said to myself these players are much better than the position in the table is saying. No one knows what had happened.”
For a team to be successful, its not just players but the entire unit including management and support staff that needs to be in sync.
“Football is a team sport and in a team, all people are very important: management, kitmans, massagers, physios, doctors, drivers, offices. To play with confidence and if you are the coach, you have to take care of all people and recognise their good work.”
He said Mohun Bagan trusted a good coach after a bad season and the result was for all to see.
“They trusted in a good coach, not a famous former footballer, and they gave him the power to take decisions, he chooses good players, made hard work, and got a good result. I’m very resilient, to be a coach need to have a big capacity to adapt.”
On their bid to join ISL, he said the franchise league will get some tradition and prestige by the addition of a centennial club.
“India needs to improve its football level and a better ISL will be better for it. If EB plays in ISL, it will increase the tournament’s prestige.”
He also spoke about the resumption of football post-Covid-19 and insisted that it cannot happen without the fans.
“I think football can’t happen till we have a vaccine or a good treatment and without it will be very difficult. I think football belongs to the spectators without them is not the same. Football is entertainment and if you are scared about a disease, it is very difficult to enjoy it,” he concluded.
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