BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Mohun Bagan – now appended ATK – and Bengaluru FC, two of India’s football clubs with a pedigree of champions, play each other in the competition finals of Indian Super League 9 at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda tomorrow, giving Goans a chance to flashback to the heyday of football in Goa.
Both teams stuttered on their way to the final but, despite niggles, they carried an air of superiority which will be put to the test when 22 men showcase their mastery over the ball and eleven walk out as the best in India.
‘It is important to control emotions. Players are human and mistakes are a part, but I know they work hard,’ said Mohun Bagan coach Juan Ferrando during the pre-match press briefing.
His counterpart Simon Grayson of Bengaluru FC meanwhile focused on the belief that has been the team's thumbnail, and it is this controlled emotion that will make fans in Goa believe on Saturday that football in India is alive and kicking.
The Nehru Stadium in Fatorda will be witnessing its fifth ISL final – three where no fans were allowed. The final between Bengaluru FC and Mohun Bagan will give football fans in Goa an opportunity to witness some of the best Indian players in action.
Liston Colaco and Glan Martins – both wearing Mohun Bagan colours – will be the toast of Goa in the ISl finals. The two are capable of giving their fans the best of football in Goa in the years to come.
‘My confidence got a boost after I joined Mohun Bagan,’ said Glan Martins when asked how his performance had improved after joining Mohun Bagan mid-way through the season.
ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC have some of the best players, and yet their climb to the finals was not predictable. Results swayed, and so did their qualification chances, but they did produce results when it mattered the most. Therefore, both will play with a fearless attitude on Saturday.
‘I had belief in myself – had the belief that the players would understand my belief, and it was this that pulled us through to the finals,’ said BFC coach Simon when asked to underline the team's trajectory to the finals despite qualification seeming an uphill task.
‘After losing against the North-East before Christmas, I assured my president that we would qualify for the finals. I had no doubt in my mind as I knew my boys were giving their best,’ stated Mohun Bagan coach Juan.
‘The belief of a player in himself is important, and I saw that in Pritam (Kotal) during the semi-finals when he came over to me and told me that he wanted to take the last spot kick. That is the confidence I see in my boys as we prepare to play the finals,’ assured a confident Juan.
‘Liston is the youngest player in the squad. He does make mistakes, and it is our role to keep correcting those mistakes, to help him overcome those mistakes. The way he is going, he is not far away from being the best,’ answered Juan when asked to focus on Liston, who finished as the highest goal scorer in all the All India Football Federation (AIFF) age-group tournaments before joining FC Goa.
‘Glan has an infectious energy,’ jested Carl McHugh, ATK Mohun Bagan midfielder, during the interaction.
The ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC final is not going to be about how many wins each team had because both sides have some of the finest elements of Indian football and good foreign players.
However, as the whistle for the final match is blown, many Goans may wonder if luck is with Mohun Bagan because when Sergio Lobera was forced to quit FC Goa, he went and won the title for Mumbai City FC. Will Juan Ferrando do it with Mohun Bagan?