Interview with Mehtab Hossain: "We can come back"
Results may not have been going in favour of the red and gold brigade as of late but East Bengal’s Mehtab Hossain doesn’t seem to read much into their recent stumbles. In practice and even in his demeanour around the tent and his team-mates, the fierce competitor on the field emanates a sense of calm coupled with supreme confidence that his team-mates can feed off. So, when I sat down to talk to him before a crucial game against Pailan Arrows, he was his usual chirpy, poised and aplomb self.
East Bengal went 34 matches unbeaten, then have fallen to three consecutive losses on the trot. Any reason that you see for your sudden loss in form?
You can’t really pinpoint one single reason for this to happen. A golden run to a downfall, this happens everywhere around the world. It’s of course difficult to digest three straight losses but this is where our team spirit has to come in. That is what will get us out of this hole. It is more important than anything else at this point and time that we stay as a team and help each other get out of this situation. It will just take one good match, one win by a good margin to turn our fortunes in an instant.
Most often other players look up to senior players like you. How much of an added responsibility do you feel on your shoulders?
To be very honest, I enjoy the responsibility and more than me, the atmosphere around the club really helps. Seniors like me interact with juniors with complete freedom and they also have to be given credit for being open to take in advise and pay due respects to others, us, which is not always the case in other dressing rooms I have been in.
During these difficult times whom do the others look to haul them out?
We really don’t believe that one single player will be able get us out of the rot. We have to look to help each other and perform as a team. Its our collective performance that’s going to get us going in the right direction. If one player is in sublime form while the other ten struggle, it will always show in the final score of the match.
Sure, as soon as possible. Then again, every team in the I-League is a good team. We just can’t to afford to rest on our laurels against them, they are too good for that. We will give our best and the rest is up to Allah. Insha-Allah we will come out of the game as victorious.
The game against Pailan will be played at Kalyani. Any distinct advantages or disadvantages that you feel exists playing over there?
If they extend the ground over there, it will be disadvantageous for us while if its near the dimension of the Salt Lake stadium, it will be an advantage for us. They say that Kalyani is an international sized ground but I beg to differ really. The ground at Yuva Bharati Krirangon is an international sized ground. Pailan is obviously a young team and their game is based on an up-tempo style with the team brimming with young energetic guys who are always up for running. But our game is based on passing, so the ground size may matter a bit.
With Uga Okpara suspended for the match, how much will you miss him? Add to that Gurbindar and Soumik out you will be stuggling in the defensive quartet in the game isn’t it?
Yes, surely. Uga is our pillar at the back. He’s the one who sets the stall out for us to move forward without having to fear of what will happen at the back. But even with these injuries, we have enough capable players in the squad who will come in and do the job for us. There is Raju (Gaekwad), Robert (Lalthalma) and even Arnab (Mondal) who haven’t even had a good look in the side but are all quality players.
How has the coach responded during these difficult times?
It’s been nearly three years since coach Trevor Morgan joined us but till date he hasn’t burdened us with any extra pressure. Even when we lose or draw any game, he hardly ever takes it out on us. He is more a helping hand, a guide that has always been there for us, telling us where our individualistic errors had occurred and how to rectify those things. He has a sense of calm about him and that hasn’t changed during this period. It really has helped us to remain calm as well. The dressing room is always very jovial and free spirited because he allows us to be.
Any message for East Bengal fans who might be panicking after your recent struggles?
Of course, we are really indebted to the unconditional love and support that we get from our fans. We exist and the title of a “big team” exists because of the number of supporters we have. Pray for us. We will surely get out of the rot and your prayers and support will surely play a big part in it.