FIFA Futsal Instructor status and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ‘A’ licence in coaching did little to arm Santosh Kashyap with the cushion to deflect the fury of the Mohun Bagan club fans. Four months into the contract signed in June 2012 as chief coach, the former India midfielder’s debut in the Kolkata league was cut short. He is back in Mumbai after resigning as coach of one of India’s premier clubs.
He is the eighth coach to quit since the 2009-2010 season. “Mohun Bagan fans are devoted to the club and highly involved. They want the team to be on the winning side always, making them understand that it takes time is beyond reasoning,” said Kashyap, on arrival in Mumbai after resigning two games into I-League 2012-2013. “When the management faced the heat due to the I-League defeats, I accepted responsibility as coach. Otherwise it would have been tough for the management to face furious fans.”
Seven coaches, Indian and foreign, have been down the road. Kashyap took over following success with Air India in I-League with a youthful squad, many of who are on the national squad. He replaced the duo of Subrata Bhattacharya (Technical Director) and Prashanta Banerjee (chief coach). Bagan’s earlier coaches were Moroccoan Karim Bencharifa, Satyajit Chatterjee, Biswajit Bhattacharya (2009-10), Stanley Rosario, Subhash Bhowmick (2010-11) and Englishman Steve Darby.
Asked whether the current Bagan players under his charge were able to adjust to frequent change of coaches, the ex-India and Mahindra United playmaker said: “With fans demanding results in every game, players have no option but to adjust. Like the way each new coach needs time to understand existing players and work out ways to get the best out of them, players require time to new coaches’ methods and thinking. Who will explain this to the fans?” he pointed out.
For Kashyap, the move from coaching AI in I-League to a high-intensity Bagan set-up was a challenge he accepted. “I feel every coach looks forward to coaching a major Kolkata club. Even now, there are coaches willing to accept the offer from Bagan when it comes. Facing fans’ fury and fulfilling their expectations is part of the challenge. It takes just one victory to change their anger into celebration, we were about to turn the corner at Bagan. Call it luck or fate, I am not there to make it happen.”
Analysing reasons for the reverses suffered by the Kolkata club in the Federation Cup and first phase of I-League, he said: “Before the Federation Cup, 12 to 13 players were sick due to various ailments. We didn’t come up from there. The preparation time for I-League was short, Odafa Okolie and Tolgay Ozbey (highly-paid foreign strikers) were free from injury but not match-fit when I-League started. We were creating chances, not scoring and conceding silly goals. It is collective responsibility — losing or winning — in a team game.”
Patience from fans
Kashyap doesn’t know who will replace him, he is sure about Bagan players ready to give everything for the team and requests patience from fans. “The players know what is expected from them,” said the ex-coach, denying the viewpoint that a coach can be overwhelmed by the presence of so many highly-paid players, Odafa for example. “Odafa is a fine person and a professional. I have an excellent rapport with him and others, even now after leaving Kolkata.”
Being at the receiving end of fans’ fury and resigning in four months has not dimmed the enthusiasm in Kashyap, ready to return to Kolkata again. “It is a different place, quite unlike anywhere in India. Stakes are high, so are expectations. Fans demand results. The coach and players are paid to perform. I feel enriched by the experience and put into use all that was taught to me at the FIFA and AFC courses. Results did not come as quickly as fans expected, so be it.”