Exclusive: AFC Cup: Unbeaten East Bengal is a very strong team – Semen Padang coach Jafri Sastra
Video analysis and scouting reports are two very important aspects of modern day football (anyone who has played the game Football Manager would be very well aware). But in Indian football, such modern methods of preparation are almost unthinkable as very few clubs have dedicated experts for data analysis.
Since most clubs refrain from using modern technology, it doesn’t make much of a difference in the I-League but analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents in a tournament like the AFC Cup is essential.
Thanks to Trevor Morgan’s excellent network in South-East Asia, East Bengal were able to prepare well for their AFC Cup group stage matches and exploited the weak points of their opponents. But the Englishman is no longer in charge of the Red-and-Gold brigade and as of now their new coach Marcos Falopa has very little idea about their quarter-final opponents Semen Padang although he does have a bit of knowledge about Indonesian football.
In truth, due to financial constraints and limited television coverage, it becomes very difficult for clubs in most parts of Asia to monitor opposing sides so maybe it isn’t a surprise that just like East Bengal, Indonesian champions Semen Padang also don’t have much of an idea about their opponents.
Their coach Jafri Sastra admitted that he has limited knowledge about the Kolkata giants but has plenty of respect for the I-League club as they are yet to suffer a defeat in this season’s AFC Cup.
“East Bengal is one of the best teams in India besides Churchill Brothers, Dempo and Pune FC but generally we don’t know much about East Bengal’s strategy. However the important thing is that we know East Bengal is a very strong team especially as they are unbeaten in this year’s AFC Cup so far,” Sastra told Sportskeeda.
The fact that East Bengal have a new coach at the helm, will make it even more difficult for Sastra and his coaching staff to know more about their opponents but the two games that they had against I-League holders Churchill Brothers in the AFC Cup group stage should be helpful.
“Yes those two games will be very helpful because at least we have an idea about the Indian style of play,” Sastra added.
Despite the change in East Bengal’s coaching staff, there haven’t been too many changes in the squad but even star players like top scorer Edeh Chidi, who has also netted six times in the AFC Cup, remain unknown to Sastra.
“We have never seen him (Chidi) before but we are sure that all the players of East Bengal have good quality otherwise you cannot reach the quarter-final without losing a game,” Sastra said.
Clearly Sastra has plenty of respect for East Bengal and since he doesn’t have much of an idea about the I-League club, the Padang tactician believes playing the first leg away could help his side.
“With the first leg being away, we will be able to understand East Bengal’s strategy better and thus prepare more for the return leg at home,” Sastra opined.
Sastra, who replaced Nil Maizar as Semen Padang head coach last year, admitted that a West Asian opponent would have made their task of reaching the semis even more difficult but stated that they were ready to face any of the remaining quarter-finalists.
“Any team who plays in the quarter-final is a good team. Playing a West Asian club would have made it even more difficult for us to qualify but before the draw we were willing to face any team,” he concluded.