Andrey Chernyshov is no way inferior to any ISL coaches: Dipendu Biswas

Dipendu Biswas for Mohammedan SC
Dipendu Biswas for Mohammedan SC (PC: Dipendu Biswas/Insta)

The Shillong Sports Association Stadium in Meghalaya witnessed wild scenes of celebration on Saturday as Mohammedan SC triumphed 2-1 over Shillong Lajong to seize their first-ever I-League championship. The 133-year-old club from Kolkata, the second-oldest in the country, will be joining city-based giants, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, in the top-tier league of the country, the ISL. With an unassailable 52 points from 23 matches, Mohammedan secured the I-League 2023-24 title ahead of their final match against Delhi FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on April 13. Their closest rivals, Sreenidi Deccan, are on 44 points with two games remaining.

One man who saw the ups and downs of the century-old-club in the last decade was Dipendu Biswas. The former India footballer, having donned several roles with the club, as a player (2003-04 and from 2016-17 to the day he hung up his boots), technical director and now a football secretary, was quite emotional to see the club’s success.

“It has been a collective effort from the players, support staff, club officials and sponsors,” said Biswas in an exclusive chat with Revsportz. “We had a bunch of talented Indian footballers along with quality foreign players coached by the experienced Andrey Chernyshov, who I feel is no way inferior to any ISL coaches.”

According to Biswas, a lot of credit should go to Chernyshov, especially the way he managed the team. Under the Russian gaffer, the club has been extremely successful in the last three years. The club won three Kolkata League titles, and were runners-up in the I-League in 2021-22. The Black Panthers also reached the final of Durand Cup where they lost to FC Goa. And now, clinching the I-League title with a match remaining, was the perfect icing on the cake.

“Our coach is the main man behind our success,” said Biswas. “Under him, we played as a team. I will keep him (Chernyshov) in the top bracket. Leave aside PK (Banerjee) Sir and Amol (Dutta) Sir. He is one of the best coaches I have seen in Indian club football. Technically, he is very sound. His man-managerial skills were brilliant throughout the season and he knows how to get the best from the boys.”

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Mohammedan SC
Mohammedan SC (PC: X)

Chernyshov was a rugged centre-back, capped by the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russia in that period of intense political change in the early 1990s. He also played for three of the Moscow giants – Spartak, Dynamo and Torpedo.

“Chernyshov is with us for three seasons now, except for a brief period when he was removed last year after losing a few matches,” said Biswas. “Mehrazuddin was appointed as the coach. But we brought him [Chernyshov] back before this season and results are for everyone to see.”

Talking about the players, Dipendu felt there had been contributions from everyone in the team.

“Evgenii Kozlov (who scored the winning goal against Lajong), Alexis Nahuel Gomez, Eddie Hernandez and Mirjalol Kasimov – each of the four foreigners played a big role in the success of the club,” he said. “There have been useful contributions from our North-East brigade, the likes of Lalremsanga Fanai, David Lahllansanga and Angousana. Local talents like Tanmoy, Samad, Fayaz have also been outstanding.”

The club went through some tough times in the last decade. They were relegated to the second division a few seasons back and even fought relegation from the Kolkata League. In 2020, Bunkerhill, a sports management company, joined the club as investor and things started to change. The Black Panthers qualified for the I-League top division in the 2020-21 season, and since then, there has been no looking back.

Mohammedan Players celebrating their historic triumph
Mohammedan Players celebrating their historic triumph (Source: Mohammedan SC)

“The secret behind the turnaround was the support we received from our investors,” said Biswas. “The club management worked in sync with Bunkerhill in building a good atmosphere at the club, with a primary focus on the football team.”

The biggest challenge for Mohammedan will be to compete against the top clubs of the ISL. But the former technical director of the club was confident about a good showing.

“I do not think we will have a problem,” said Biswas. “There is not a vast difference in standard between ISL and I-League clubs. A good team can win you trophies, whereas even a team of 50 crores cannot win you a title. It is the foreign players that make a difference. There is no major difference between the Indian players.

“Our coach wants to keep the same team for the ISL. The key is to build a good team keeping the core group of players. Our target will be to play in the AFC Cup.”

Finally, Biswas had a message for the supporters who had been with the club even during the lean years. “You have supported us during the bad times,” he said. “We will be playing ISL for the first time. No one gave us a chance of winning the I-League. But we have proved everyone wrong with sheer determination and willpower. Keep supporting us, and we will try our best to not let you down.”

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