General Secretary Wasim Akram vows to bring back golden days of the Black Panthers…
After a hiatus of seven years, Mohammedan Sporting are set to participate in the upcoming I-League after they took an unassailable lead on the points table of the qualifiers by virtue of winning three games on the trot.
With both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal jumping ship to the Indian Super League (ISL), it will be Mohammedan who will be carrying the flag of Kolkata as the sole representative from the football-crazy city.
But their journey back to I-League has been far from smooth. In July 2020, amidst a full-blown pandemic, there was a change of guard in the board room with Wasim Akram and co. taking charge.
The 33-year-old general secretary had to start from scratch and his primary task was to assemble a squad that would be the strongest amongst other competitors, at least on paper.
In came Willis Plaza and Eze Kingsley, and if the Coronavirus pandemic had not played spoilsport, then the officials would have roped in a Japanese who is a popular face in Kolkata, courtesy of playing for both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. The domestic contingent was also strengthened as household names like SK Faiaz and Subhash Singh were signed.
The pandemic delayed the preparations and they were unable to start training. The officials made a special plea to the West Bengal state government to get a training clearance and the sports minister Aroop Biswas obliged. Hence, on August 24, the Black Panthers became the first football club of the country to start practising once again after sporting activities came to a halt in March.
“It was very complicated. This has not been an easy ride. In this short period, there have so many ups and downs. But we always had our eyes on the target. Finally, it has been achieved. I thank the IFA (Indian Football Association), AIFF (All India Football Federation) and the West Bengal government for their support. Now, we move on to the next goal i.e. to win the I-League,” stated Akram to Goal.
The officials are not willing to rest on their laurels and a day after ensuring promotion to I-League, they met with their Gurgaon-based investors Bunkerhill Private Limited to chalk out the way forward.
“We can sign five foreigners, and the fans can hope that they will see better players in I-League. We are already working with our investor on the plan for I-League.”
The players should also get their due credit as they swept aside all controversies under the blanket and showed character by putting in a clinical performance against a determined Bhowanipore side. Akram assured that the core group of players will be retained by the club and even Shaheed Ramon will remain at the helm of affairs.
But the I-League is a completely different ball-game. Giants like East Bengal have struggled to taste success and as fas as Mohammedan are concerned, they too don’t have many fond memories of the competition. Nothing short of silverware will do justice to Mohammedan’s 129-year-old history and heritage as the combined age of all other participants will be less than that of the black and whites.
The target has been locked, the preparations are underway, and now it remains to be seen whether Ramon and his men can replicate their success in the big boys’ league.