Mahindra United pulling all stops to win NFL
Mumbai champions Mahindra United are exploring all avenues in its bid to win the National Football League this season.
With a little less than a week to go for the seventh edition of the tournament which will decide India's champion club, they have appointed a European coach in Karel Stromsik of the Czech Republic and hired a European, Ghanaian and an Ivory Coast footballer.
Karel Stromsik, who played as a goalkeeper in the 1982 World Cup in Spain for the then Czechoslovakia, has been hired for one season for a reported annual salary of Rs three million plus accommodation and a
daily allowance. His appointment makes the Mahindra United only second Indian club to get a European coach after Goa's Churchill Brothers, who were coached by Scotsman Danny McLennan in 1998.
Mahindra United president Alan Durante informed that the team has discarded the services of all its Nigerian players -- Bernard Operanozie, Christopher and Habib Adenkule -- and replaced them with midfielder Strandel Petr of the Czech Republic, who will also be the first European to play in the NFL, defender Odartey Lawson of Ghana and 19-year-old striker Monga Aby Samson of Ivory Coast team Athletico club.
Mahindra United, the only Mumbai team in the elite 12-team group, had launched its new-look side under coach Shabir Ali two years ago but failed to make an impression in the league, resulting in the axe falling on Ali. But under stop-gap coach-cum-manager Harish Rao the team did win the Durand Cup, Nadkarni Cup and Harwood league last season. However, the NFL title eluded them. Last season they could win only nine out of 22 matches in the league and finished sixth.
This season, the All India Football Federation has reduced the quota of foreign players in a team for a match from four to three, and allowed only four players, from five, to be hired by a team. Which means Mahindra will be able to field all their three foreign recruits in the same match.
Durante also said the new line-up has attracted three sponsors -- Sharda Industries Ltd, Anand Automotive Systems and Beru Diesel Start Pvt Ltd -- whose logos the players will display on their jerseys.
Harish Rao will now assist Stromsik while former India goalkeeper Henry Menezes is the manager of the team.
Durante clarified that Bengal medio Debjit Ghosh's transfer issue from Bangladesh has been cleared by the AIFF and he will be in the starting line-up this Sunday in the team's first NFL match against Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club.
Mahindra United will be led by central defender Anthony Pereira. Apart from others already mentioned, the team some of the best footballers in the country. They have Tapan Ghosh, Surukumar Momocha Singh and Biby Thomas in defence; James Singh, R P Singh, Khalid Jamil and Siddique Khalid among nine mid-fielders, and R C Prakash, Abhishek Yadav and Nagesh Rao in the forward line.