Top five achievements of Karim Bencherifa in Indian football

Pune FC have appointed the highly-successful Karim Bencherifa as their new head coach with the hope of moving forward both on and off the field under the Moroccan. Bencherifa, who has signed a two-year contract with the Red Lizards, has won almost every domestic trophy in Indian football and will be aiming to land Pune’s first-ever silverware.

Ahead of his new challenge with Pune, Sportskeeda lists the former Mohun Bagan coach’s top five achievements.

5. MB’s escape from relegation in 2nd spell

When Karim Bencherifa took charge of Mohun Bagan for the second time in November 2012 the club was in crisis as they went trophyless for two seasons and didn’t have a squad good enough to challenge for the title. The situation got worse a month later as Mohun Bagan refused to take the field in the second half of a derby clash with East Bengal citing safety issues. The green-and-maroon brigade were initially relegated from the I-League but later were spared with a 12-point deduction. As a result they had zero points from 10 matches and Bencherifa had his work cut out to avoid the drop. The Moroccan didn’t panic though and started getting the best out of an average squad. Eventually the Mariners survived easily with 29 points from their final 16 games. It wasn’t Bencherifa’s best season but only he could have saved Mohun Bagan from that hopeless situation.

4. Revival of Churchill Brothers

Bencherifa’s first assignment in India was with Churchill Brothers in 2006. The Goan club had finished outside the top five only once in their first eight seasons of the National Football League (NFL) including three runners-up finishes but were relegated in 2004-05. They won back promotion in 2006 and appointed Bencherifa, who despite being new to Indian football managed to finish fourth in his first season. The Moroccan then guided the club to their first-ever Durand Cup title in 2007. In his second season the NFL was rebranded as the I-League and Bencherifa nearly landed the club’s first-ever top-flight title as they only finished second behind Dempo on goal difference. In his two seasons at Churchill Brothers, Bencherifa had transformed Nigerian Odafa Okolie into a goal machine. Bencherifa left for Mohun Bagan in the summer of 2008 but Churchill retained the core of his team and won the I-League in 2009.

3.10-match winning run with MB in 1st spell

It was a successful start for Bencherifa at Mohun Bagan as he guided them to Calcutta Football League success and then won the Federation Cup to book the Kolkata club’s place in the AFC Cup. But the real challenge was to make Mohun Bagan consistent in the I-League. Since their last league success in 2002, Mohun Bagan had finished in the top three only once in the next six campaigns. Bencherifa didn’t enjoy a great start in the I-League as they managed four draws in five games. But a narrow 1-0 away win over Dempo seemed to kick-start their season as they followed it up with five straight wins without conceding. The winning sequence was stretched to ten games and created a new record in the I-League.. The streak ended against arch-rivals East Bengal but Mohun Bagan finished runners-up. It remains their best-ever season in the I-League and the 10-matching winning run hasn’t been equalled.

2. Development of Indian players

Trophies, winning streaks, a disciplined style of play are all important parts of Bencherifa’s CV but what really got him the job at Pune FC is his ability to develop Indian players. There have been many great foreign and Indian coaches in the NFL and I-League era but very few can match Bencherifa’s consistency of bringing the best out of young and unknown players. Right from Gouramangi Singh in 2006 to Aibor Khongjee in 2013, Bencherifa has been responsible for the personal growth of many Indian footballers. The 46-year-old has worked in three Indian clubs previously and everywhere he has produced stars and contributed to the Indian national team. He was close to getting the India job in 2011 and the fact that it didn’t work out has possibly affected India more than Bencherifa. Pune FC already have a model of producing stars rather than buying them and thus they couldn’t have picked a better coach than Bencherifa to take them forward.

1. League and Cup success with Salgaocar

After an unceremonious end to his first spell at Mohun Bagan, Bencherifa took charge of Salgaocar in the latter stages of the 2009-10 campaign. At that time Salgaocar were struggling to avoid relegation but Bencherifa weaved his magic and in the end the Goan club finished in the top half of the table. At the start of the 2010-11 season, no one expected Salgaocar to challenge for the title but Bencherifa compiled a well-balanced team that didn’t have any stars however had a good blend of local and foreign talent. To the surprise of many Salgaocar emerged champions as Bencherifa enhanced his coaching credentials. It was the club’s first league success since 1999 but the silverware didn’t stop there as at the start of the 2011-12 campaign, Bencherifa guided them to the Federation Cup title by beating East Bengal 3-1 in Kolkata. In 18 months, Bencherifa had transformed Salgaocar from relegation battlers to champions of India with the club also qualifying for AFC Cup for the first time.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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