The boys have made me proud. We have finally achieved our aim and will now play in the I-League 2013-14. This feeling is superb. That we sealed the berth with a match in hand (against Rangdajied United on Saturday) speaks volumes about our consistency. I reiterate the credit goes to the players. I feel special today because of their effort. They deserve the limelight more than me.
What different do you do to turn the tide for Mohammedan Sporting?
A coach is as good as his bunch of players. When I took over on February 28 this year, the morale of the team was very low. Mohammedan Sporting had lost badly to East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the Calcutta Football League. I had two days time to prepare them for the 2nd Division League. We trained in Kolkata for the two days and then left for Indore.
It was a big challenge for me to lift the morale of the boys. I did my bit, pep talk or whatever you call it. I told them about the history of the club, what qualification to the Premier Division means to the club. I urged them to pick themselves up as this is a new ball game altogether.
How would you sum the journey?
It was an uphill task. After coming to Indore, Ashim (Biswas) picked up a bad injury after playing just two matches. He was thus ruled out. We were a mediocre team who peaked at the right time. The players rose to the occasion. They were honest, and followed my instructions diligently. That we don’t have stars minimised the chances of having any ego clashes in the team. Expectations were less and the team took it upon themselves. We beat all the odds to qualify.
What is the secret behind the success?
Team chemistry, dedication and honesty!
We were so organised. We have conceded just three goals so far (with a match still left). Our defence held firm against the likes of Hudson Lima Silva and (Jose Ramires) Barreto. The two Shillong sides (Randajied United and Langsning FC) are also very good. They have impressed me a lot. Never did we concede cheaply. We lost only one match throughout the campaign. Coming to the midfield and attack, goals win you matches and we capitalised on our opportunities.
Were you under pressure under any point of time?
Mohammedan Sporting is a big brand, a historic club. The emotions always run high as there is a vast legion of fans who support the Club. So the pressure was always there. But as I said, team work, honesty and sticking to the basics have seen us through.
I didn’t have a magic wand. The first win in Indore against Royal Wahingdoh turned the tide for us. We never looked back from there.
What are your plans for the I-League?
Isn’t it too early to comment on that? We still have one more game left. I will be preparing a list of players whom I want to retain and want for next season. The I-League will be a different battle altogether. But we will be ready for it.