EXCLUSIVE || People believe real change is happening at East Bengal: Carles Cuadrat

Carles Cuadrat with players
Carles Cuadrat with players (Source: EBFC)

East Bengal’s ISL play-off fate is no longer in their own hands. On Wednesday night, they take on Punjab FC away from home knowing that nothing less than three points will do. If that mission is accomplished, they then need to wait until April 14 and hope that a resurgent Chennaiyin FC take nothing from their visit to FC Goa. But win, lose or draw, this has still been a season to savour for many East Bengal fans, after years in the doldrums. Carles Cuadrat, an ISL winner with Bengaluru FC, has led the revival as coach, and he spoke to Boria Majumdar, RevSportz’s editor-in-chief, about the immediate goals and the red-and-gold blueprint for the future. Excerpts:

Boria: You have again heralded a turnaround. Instilled belief.

Cuadrat: Yes, it was important to put a lot of effort to try to change the dynamic in a club that was struggling a lot after a lot of years not performing well. Every bad result this season has come with some comments like “another failed project”, or asking questions to the management. I am happy that the work put in over the last nine months has let us change that point of view. Now, the people around believe that a real change is happening at East Bengal. It is very important for the club to show that step taken , to show the will to leave behind the dark era, to keep with the two-year plan under me that consisted of:

* being competitive – we won a trophy, reached two finals, and arrived to the last game of the regular league [season] fighting for a slot in the play-offs.

* build a squad for the next years, renew contracts for important players like [Naorem] Mahesh, and bring new B team talents to the 1st team.

* get the opportunity to play in AFC competition again. 

* make the supporters proud to be EB fans 

All of it is happening, and I am very optimistic about what we can achieve next season. The belief is there for all the red-and-gold family.

Also Read: An Evening With Carles Cuadrat and His Love For Artifacts

Boria: Now that you are so close, what are you telling your boys?

Cuadrat: We play every three days. You have to be careful not to give excessive messages to the players, because too much information can even be bad for some of them. For example, after the last match at home, we had a day off. Today, we have done an easy training with some finishing actions, how to arrive in the opponent’s box and how to create chances versus Punjab. And only tomorrow, we will show one video studying the opponent’s tactics in the morning. Two hours before the match, we will work on our set pieces and match plan for the game. The players will be full motivated and mentally ready because they are just crazy about making it to the playoffs for the first time. Our only worry is the physical situation. It will be our third game in a week. So you have to push your players in the right way, at the right time. I have been a footballer before, so it helps me to understand what they need and at what moment they are ready for that.

Carles Cuadrat. Source: East Bengal

Boria: What about next year? How much hope does this give you, and what are your plans?

Cuadrat: It’s a very important season to make a new statement. Try to fight again to reach the final stages in all the Indian competitions. And try to represent India loudly and proudly in Asian competition, after nine years out of it. We have already made some interesting signatures, and I have the feeling that the team will be stronger and will play attractive football. We are also taking some decisions about training camps, interesting friendlies and training facilities. As I told you, for me, the second season has to be the consolidation of an exciting new era in the club’s long history.

Boria: Finally, with three Kolkata teams next year, how much will it benefit the ISL?

Cuadrat: It’s great to have more historic clubs in the ISL. It glorifies the old Indian football legacy. Centennial clubs bring prestige to the league, and also assures thousands of fans. When a club has a wide legacy, the love for the club expands from grandparents to children, and then on to the next generation. Also, it will make Kolkata a very interesting place to play, as we will get another derby in town. It is not as big as the Boro Match, but we know that the rivalry between Mohammedan and East Bengal, and between Mohammedan and Mohun Bagan, has a long story behind it. I was lucky enough to read your book about football in India, and so I was able to know how Mohammedan was the champion team in some long-ago eras – of their dominance over the city neighbours for several years. So, happy to have a historic club like that in the top competition.

Also Read: RevSportz Exclusive II Fans were crying, that made me cry too: Carles Cuadrat

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