My dream is to make Mohun Bagan champions with Odafa as top scorer – Bencherifa
After leaving the club by mutual consent in February 2010, Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa is back in the hot seat of Mohun Bagan and is determined more than ever to end the Kolkata club’s wait for their first national league title since 2002.
In his first spell at Mohun Bagan, Bencherifa won four major trophies including the Federation Cup in 2008 and also guided them to a runner-up finish in the 2008-09 I-League, when they also managed a record ten-straight wins.
Six coaches came and went and none even came close to Bencherifa’s successes with the two-season trophy drought only ending by default on Sunday as they were awarded the Airlines Gold Cup due to Mohammedan Sporting’s walkover. Bencherifa went on to win the I-League and Federation Cup with Salgaocar, after helping them avoid relegation in his first season there.
His return to Mohun Bagan also sees him reunite with Odafa Okolie as the two worked together at Churchill Brothers. It was under Bencherifa, that Odafa established himself as one of the hottest strikers in Indian football and the tactician believes the Nigerian will have to play a key role in his bid to make Mohun Bagan champions of India again.
“My partnership with Odafa at Churchill was fantastic. He became top scorer when I was with Churchill and thanks to his goals I was considered good. He helped me to be what I am now in India. My dream is to make Bagan win the I-League this season with Odafa as top scorer,” he said in a press conference at the Mohun Bagan club tent where he was officially made the new head coach.
Bencherifa had resigned as Salgaocar coach last month but had to serve a one-month notice period at the Goan club and in his absence Mridul Banerjee, who will be the new assistant coach, has done well as Bagan have managed ten points in four I-League games.
“Yes, it is easier to manage a team that has a winning momentum. But there are no easy games. I have three away games now followed by the derby (against East Bengal). There are no small teams and any team can beat anyone. Our next opponents Mumbai FC beat an in-form Shillong Lajong side in the last match,” the 44-year-old pointed out.
After six rounds of the I-League, Mohun Bagan are fifth and four points behind league leaders and arch-rivals East Bengal. Bencherifa opined that there is a long way to go and is taking his second spell at the club as a fresh new challenge.
“If you look at the table, I can say there is much to play for and everything is possible. In the last few years, the league has usually been decided in the last round. We have the potential and the players to do it. It is my responsibility to carry the team to the best position possible.
“We had to part ways because of disappointments here and there but it was amicable. It is a new challenge but I am always comfortable with difficult challenges,” he stated.