• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Taking the Hero Santosh Trophy final rounds to Saudi Arabia is a huge boost for players, says former India captain Biswajit Bhattacharya

ByNE India Broadcast

Feb 13, 2023 #AIFF

For Biswajit Bhattacharya, the Hero Santosh Trophy is familiar territory. The Bengals’ coach has won this tournament nine times and has competed in it for nearly two decades.Even Odisha isn’t unfamiliar territory — “their food palate is similar to ours,” he says — because when he made his debut in the tournament, as a 16-year-old, the tournament was staged in Cuttack. 

Bhattacharya’s debut wasn’t quite so memorable, and yet, a year on when Bengal won the title, Bhattacharya was the fulcrum of the team, and went on to score  23 goals in the competition. 

“The Santosh Trophy used to be a highlight of the football calendar,” the former India captain says. “Players used to look forward to it. And I’m glad that Kalyan (AIFF President, Kalyan Chaubey) and his team have put efforts into restoring its former glory.”

“It’s a small but very important step to make Indian football grassroots strong,” Bhattacharya says. “Just a gesture, an initiative like taking the semis and finals to Saudi Arabia is a huge boost for players. It will make more strive to play this tournament. And that’s good because this tournament is for young boys who are basically playing this to get scouted and picked by clubs.”

Bhattacharya’s strict training methods, and his reputation as a strict disciplinarian have seen him often clash with management on various things, but with the Bengal team it seems to stick. It’s his way or the highway. 

Bengal have one point from their opening two games, a hard fought draw against Delhi and a tough to swallow 2-1 loss against Services, where Bhattacharya’s side were in fact the scorers of the first goal.   

While results haven’t fallen their way, things change quickly in the final round of the 76th National Football Championships for the Hero Santosh Trophy. It is a fact not missed on Bhattacharya. 

“There are no weak teams here,” he says. “Every team has qualified to get here and things can change within a game.”

In Group B, Services’ perfect two for two has opened the second place spot up for grabs to all, Manipur, Delhi and Bengal separated by two points, albeit the latter having played a game more. 

Results though aren’t what Bhattacharya is solely here for. “As a player, you can be selfish,” he says. “You can keep your performance intact, keep training hard and think only about short term results. As a coach, you cannot. 

“It is my responsibility to be fair to all these young boys. Give them all space to perform and judge them from their training. I want them to play good football. Not just football for the sake of winning.”

Source : AIFF 

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