How Mohun Bagan won the I-League: The beautiful garden blooms!

The I-League title saw Mohun Bagan’s season climaxing in a dramatic fashion as the team shook off some disappointments suffered earlier.

Jubilant Mohun Bagan players after clinching the I-League title.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

 

The tactical acumen of Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna, the right selection of foreign and Indian recruits who kept performing consistently and a management persisting with the side even during times of poor form, are a few of the reasons that ensured the moment of glory for Mohun Bagan. The I-League title saw Mohun Bagan’s season climaxing in a dramatic fashion as the team shook off some disappointments suffered earlier. The team failed to win the Calcutta Football League and the Durand Cup and even started the I-League with a draw and a loss in the first two outings.

The turnaround came with a 4-0 win against TRAU FC in the third round and this sparked a fantastic journey for Mohun Bagan as the team created a new I-league record of remaining unbeaten in 14 matches at a stretch. It had an incredible 12 wins while drawing only two matches in this phase to make it an unparalleled run of success.

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When asked to analyse how Mohun Bagan managed to make its triumph so absolute in the end, Debasish Dutta, a senior official of the club, said one of the main reasons was choosing Kalyani Stadium as the venue. “Kalyani has a fantastic ground and the stadium has a smaller capacity compared to the Salt Lake Stadium. This ensured that we had packed galleries motivating the side in every match. The giant Salt Lake Stadium appeared empty even if we had 20,000 supporters coming in,” Dutta said. “I must also congratulate the club executive who continued to put faith in the coach and team even after it failed to pick up a title earlier in the season.”

Mohun Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna with Papa Babacar Diawara, who netted the lone goal against Aizawl FC.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

 

Ask Kibu Vicuna and he says, “The team has been performing at a good level from the beginning of the season. I have always been saying that this team needs time to reach its peak. We had a completely new team and one had be patient for it to bring the results. It is good that the club management put faith in us and gave us the time to come up with the title in the end.

“As a team we always wanted to win every tournament and as you see we finished second in both the Calcutta Football League and the Durand Cup. It goes to show that the team always had the potential and it was only a matter of time before we began to express ourselves in the right way,” Vicuna said. “Football is about emotions and it is the dream of every footballer to make the fans happy by winning titles. It is good that we could produce that kind of football to make this happen.”

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When asked to define the point where he thought the title was a possibility, Vicuna said, “If you talk about any turning point it should be our win against Aizawl FC because the title became a reality then. So long the talk was about ‘the team could do it,’ now the talk was that ‘the team has done it.’”

As Mohun Bagan heads to the ISL next season after its merger with ATK scheduled in June 2020 (the merged entity will be called ATK-Mohun Bagan), both Vicuna and the players stare at an uncertain future. Dutta said Mohun Bagan will have some engagement for Vicuna and the players. But with ATK enjoying a lion’s share of members in the board that will manage the team next season, such assurances hardly have any bearing on the future.