Bhaichung should have played against Bayern, feel fans

May 27th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by admin  

By Abhishek Roy
Kolkata, May 27 (IANS) How often do European football clubs visit India to play the country’s top sides? Seldom, though this football-crazy city is lucky to have seen Brazilian club Sao Paulo, Dutch PSV Eindhoven, New York Cosmos and Germany’s Bochum over the years. In this globalised world, it makes business sense for top international teams to visit India frequently. But then will these cosmetic trips by soccer giants wake up Sepp Blatter’s “sleeping giant” India? Soccer buffs are divided - some feel that these visits by big clubs are good while some others find this a business hype.

German champions Bayern Munich are here, adding India as a destination in their Asian tour. Kolkata is all agog, never mind even if the Bundesliga side is not at its full strength or even if it is not going to stretch itself against one of the country’s top club sides, Mohun Bagan.

The question uppermost in the minds of over 100,000 football fans who have crammed into the Salt Lake Stadium is do Mohun Bagan have to be humiliated by pitting a nondescript side hurriedly cobbled up in off season? No Bhaichung Bhutia, no Jose Ramirez Barretto - the two top guns. A couple more have been sweating it out with the national side.

Fans and former footballers are unhappy with the way the whole show has been organised. One fan likened it to a wedding without the bridegroom, otherwise how can Mohun bagan play without Bhaichung and that, too, when the match is billed as Germany’s famed goalkeeper Oliver Kahn’s farewell.

It is a different matter that the national captain did not approve of the show itself at this peak summer time. He was leading the India team in playing a friendly against Chinese-Taipei (Taiwan) in Chennai around the time Bayern was giving soccer tips to Mohun Bagan.

“The cream of Mohun Bagan side was denied the opportunity of playing against one of the best clubs in the world. I think our chief coach Bob Houghton should have been a little charitable in releasing the Mohun Bagan players for the match,” former captain and Olympian Chuni Goswami told IANS.

Mohun Bagan officials made desperate efforts to get their four players released from the national squad for this match, but the chief coach would not budge.

Former Mohun Bagan coach Aloke Mukherjee agreed that it was important for the national team to play international tournaments, but here the players would be playing against a top club side.

“I agree with Bob’s policy. But playing against Bayern was much more beneficial than playing some third grade teams like Chinese-Taipei,” said Mukherjee.

Olympian P.K. Banerjee, who was the coach of the Mohun Bagan team when American club Cosmos came to India, recalled the olden days.

“The arrival of Bayern Munich reminded me of the Mohun Bagan-Cosmos match in 1977. Cosmos weren’t as popular as the German side is, but they still had players like Pele and Carlos Alberto in their team,” said Banerjee in his syndicated column.

Mohun Bagan held Cosmos 2-2, a tremendous achievement for the hosts.

Saying he has great admiration for Kahn, he, however, rates former Soviet Union goalkeeper Lev Yashin as the best he has seen in his life.

Despite the absence of their local stars, the fans were delighted that they were physically part of Oliver Kahn’s farewell and that, too, in Kolkata.

“It is a great moment in Indian football and I hope we get to see more foreign teams playing in India so that the game gets a real boost,” said Dipankar Basu, a Mohun Bagan supporter.

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