I-League 2018-19: In-form Sony Norde will be the trump card for Khalid Jamil ahead of the Kolkata Derby
You can love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him.
This popular catchphrase is often used by Mohun Bagan fans to describe their best player, Sony Norde. The football-crazy people of Kolkata have not seen such a prolific player like the Haitian in recent times. For the last five years, he not only mesmerized green and maroon fans but also earned respect from East Bengal fans too.
It was nearly 2:30 AM when hundreds of spectators gathered at Kolkata Airport to welcome Norde before the start of the season. If this was not enough, they made a convoy of motorbikes ahead of Norde’s car until he reached the hotel.
The emotion is palpable. Sony Norde has given so much to this club in his previous years. The best of them is surely the I-League title, a trophy their arch-rivals failed to win for 15 years. After Mohun Bagan’s poor performances in the league since the start of the decade, it was Norde who almost single-handedly turned the tide in favour of them.
The goal against NEROCA FC on Saturday, his fourth in the campaign, earned Mohun Bagan their second successive home win. In fact, it was Norde’s first goal for a winning cause. He scored against Aizawl and Chennai City but his team conceded two late goals to draw the match.
His goal from a fabulous free-kick against Real Kashmir last Sunday and the team's loss culminated a mid-season coach change for the green and maroon. However, Norde’s double assist earned Mohun Bagan a comfortable win against Minerva Punjab and it was his goal which separated them against NEROCA FC.
His start was not so impressive though. Norde missed the first match of the campaign as he was not fit enough to play. He was not used against Real Kashmir in Srinagar. He was injured again and missed a couple of matches, including one against East Bengal.
Just when some supporters started believing that Norde’s signing was a trick by some officials to win the elections, the Haitian silenced his doubters with his successive performances. Not only scoring goals, but he also helped the team in many ways.
His work-rate is so different from others. When he gets the ball on his feet, he always tries to score. When he doesn’t have the ball, he comes down to help his team. He doesn’t like to play on his own. He always looks for his teammates in a favourable position to pass the ball.
Opponent players always keep two things in mind when they face Norde. Don’t allow him an inch of space to run and don’t foul him on the edge of the box. If you do, you’re done for.
He is not someone who takes all the credits. “We got vital three points. It doesn’t matter who scored, three points are what we were looking for. The points are important before the derby,” Norde said after the match against NEROCA.
Derby. The single word is enough to create ripples among football fans. It is the day when a city is divided into two halves. Be it Manchester, Milan, Madrid, Istanbul, Moscow – the picture is same everywhere. Kolkata is also included in the elite bracket when it comes to Derbies.
Norde is certainly not the best player considering his figures in the Derbies. He has played only seven Derbies in his five years at Mohun Bagan. But in recent times, whenever there is a Derby, the Haitian gets the most attraction.
There was a time when the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Chima Okorie made a name for themselves by scoring lots of goals in this fixture. Norde is yet to include his name in this list as he has only one goal to his name.
But come December 27, he will get another chance to prove his mettle. The return leg is going to be a crucial fixture for both the teams considering their position in the league table. East Bengal will be looking to make a ‘double’ after winning the first Derby. Mohun Bagan will try hard to prevent that.
The green and maroon supporters must be charged up by the fact that their main man is in form. Norde has found the net two times in the last three matches and it looks like he has gotten back his rhythm. He has played full minutes in all these matches and never looked like having any discomfort in his attitude. Surely, he is going to be the trump card for Khalid Jamil.
“The Derby is the most important fixture in the league. All the supporters are waiting for that match. We have lost the previous fixture. The two back-to-back wins will give us enough confidence,” Norde said.
Mohun Bagan will have a fortnight rest before they face East Bengal and this is the most worrying factor for the team. They also faced a similar situation last time around and Norde got a serious injury in one of the training sessions. The Haitian should be more careful this time.
The stage is set for the Haitian to make his mark.