Mohammedan Sporting looks likely to be aiming for the big time. After the Calcutta club re-entered the I-League, Sporting it seems want to cash in on the opportunity and didn’t waste time in preparing for the new season.
By signing the Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey, who played for Mohun Bagan last season, Sporting has dropped a hint. The club, without any major success in recent years, want to rebuild their image as one of the competitive sides.
Sporting has signed Ozbey on a one-year deal. Besides, another top foreign player, Penn Orji has also agreed to join the century-old club. The Nigerian was one of the key players under Trevor Morgan for East Bengal for the last three years.
The black and white, who over the years have not been in the limelight, have also signed Luciano Sobrosa (Salgaocar) and Josimar da Silva Martins (Salgaocar).
Thus, Sporting, which was founded in 1891, now have a formidable line-up of foreign players who can help them re-establish their supremacy in Indian football.
Just six months back, when AIFF banned Mohun Bagan for two years after they refused to resume their I-League game against East Bengal, Sporting officials uncorked a surprise. They went all out to garner support not only from East Bengal but also from Bagan with a plea that they may be considered for the I-League.
They demanded a wild card entry as they felt the club has some historical significance and should be treated at par with Bagan.
It sounded so funny and ridiculous.
But now, it seems, that better sense has prevailed in the club. Sporting officials finally are showing some sense of responsibility and practicality by organizing themselves in a professional way. That’s precisely what was lacking in the club since so many years.
Offset by their poor performances in the domestic season and a general lack of interest, sponsors weren’t too keen to invest. Due to lack of financial support, the club recruited only ‘rejected’ players from Bagan and East Bengal.
But after the chit-fund scam, it has become a blessing in disguise for clubs like Sporting, who still has a brand value in the market as it is still one of the largest fan-based clubs, not only in India but across the border as well.
Tolgay’s move to Bagan from East Bengal wasn’t a pleasant one. Caught in between the transfer rules, the Aussie missed lot of matches. It was only in the later part of the League that the Aussie was able to turn out for Bagan. But the reports of non-payment didn’t go down well with some of the overseas players employed by Bagan and East Bengal.
With soured relations with their former clubs, Tolgay and others may have just preferred to stay in the city and represent a team which is equally popular and playing in the League.
Sporting was an ideal choice for Tolgay and others.
I’m not sure if a similar situation has happened in Calcutta when top players had deserted East Bengal and Bagan in 1980-81. On that occasion, Sporting cashed in on the dispute between the players and the clubs and welcomed almost all the top stars including Bhaskar Ganguly, Surojit Sengupta, Prasun Banerjee, Prashanta Banerjee, Shabbir Ali and others.
Till now, it has remained one of the best known coups in club football signings.
I believe the signings of big names will rejuvenate the team. It will help rebuild confidence in the fans and officials. Such things motivate the team.
As they say, failure teaches success.
But Sporting officials need to maintain a calm approach. In the past, coaches had complained of interference by the officials. The present management must give their coach a free hand in team selection and believe in him.
If the club officials follow the work ethics, things might start to roll in Sporting’s favour.Published 07 Jun 2013, 23:01 IST