The Cuadrat Conundrum – Go Local, or Buy Foreign?

Carles Cuadrat in East Bengal’s Training Session (Image: East Bengal)

After a hard-fought derby, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are back to the grind on Saturday evening. Both teams making the top six is essential for the success of the ISL and the subsequent growth of Indian football. Except Kerala, Bengaluru and Goa, teams which have substantial fan groups backing the teams, no other outfit comes close to Mohun Bagan or East Bengal. In fact, in terms of legacy, these two clubs are unmatched.

With rich histories going back more than a hundred years propping them, it is no surprise that both these clubs have thousands of fans who will forever stay loyal to the green-and-maroon or red-and-yellow. And that’s why the clubs need to do well. Neither of them are Hyderabad FC. And never will be. The fans won’t allow them to be. If the managements of either club makes a mess of things, fans will make sure that they step up. Such is the loyalty that as long as Indian football is talked about, both these clubs will be spoken about and celebrated.

Take the case of Carles Cuadrat. He has been around the Indian football scene for a while now. But in the last month or so, he has become a cult figure. In Kolkata, every East Bengal hoarding, and there are many, has Cuadrat at its centre, holding the Super Cup. That’s what a win can do. East Bengal fans, starved of a national trophy for 12 long years, have rediscovered self-belief with Cuadrat in charge. For them, he is like a magician who can do no wrong. At least for the time being. And that’s what is scary.

Also Read: Igor Stimac – Truth or Excuses?

Be it Cuadrat or Igor Stimac or Antonio Habas, Indian football, or its talent pool, is mediocre at best. The derby was proof. Both Mahesh Naorem and Kiyan Nassiri would struggle when pitted against any Asian side because of their physique. And that’s what all of these coaches have to contend with. Maybe that’s why they resort to getting foreign strikers who at least have better physicality. And the moment they do so, bringing in overseas central defenders, central midfielders and strikers, Indian football suffers.

It is a peculiar catch-22. While at one level, we want a Cuadrat or Habas to deliver results, we aren’t receptive to their concerns. Either they are constrained by the lack of resources, or they are forced to look at foreign imports to make up for the lack of talent among homegrown stars. That’s where Indian football is stuck at the moment. Make no mistake, the ISL has brought in professionalism and improvement. And maybe, that’s why India are now qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup. But now, the improvement has started to plateau and unless there is another spike, India will be stuck in the second rung of Asian teams, still a few miles away from competing with the best like Japan, Qatar or Australia.

So what does a Habas or a Cuadrat do? Aren’t they accountable to the fans I started the piece with? Aren’t they responsible for winning trophies and adding to the legacies of these clubs? And if bringing in foreigners is the only way, can we blame them for doing so?

Honestly, I don’t have answers to these questions. What I can say is that I see a renewed sense of interest among East Bengal fans, and that can only augur well for Indian football, which is still struggling to carve out a niche for itself at the Asian level. A strong national team will help a strong club culture and vice versa, and maybe that’s why Cuadrat and Habas need to be backed in the next month to deliver for these two legacy clubs.

Also Read: India Football, Money, and Black Holes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *