Mohammedan Sporting Club are one of the favourites to win the I-League Qualifiers, which starts on Thursday in Kolkata. Mohammedan take on Delhi-based Garhwal FC in the second clash of the day as both the teams will kick off their campaign at the tournament. Mohammedan were quite active in the transfer window and have some big names in the roster like Willis Plaza, Eze Kingsley and young talent Himanshu Jangra.
Mohammedan have a very strong squad on paper but their coach Yan Law does not wish to dwell on that and in fact, he doesn't want his boys to even think about the favourites tag. "On paper, I feel our team is very good but football is played on grass and it would matter how we play in these four matches. I don't want the tag of favourites get to the heads of the boys. I want them to stay grounded. I want them focussed on the game," Law said in the virtual press conference held on Wednesday as the media is not allowed to cover the tournament due to coronavirus.
Garhwal head coach Vikas Rawat, on the other hand, said he was not looking at other teams and was focussed on maximising the strengths of his. "I personally think about my team instead of thinking about others. I respect all the other clubs for their legacies and squads. For me, focussing on my team rather than the names is more important. We are a young team, we don't have big signings but we focus on enjoying our game. It is 11 v 11 on game day and that's the mentality. Whoever comes against us, we have to enjoy and win all games," he stated.
Law said there was pressure of expectations since now there is no club from Kolkata in the I-League. "The main pressure is everyone is backing us to qualify for the I-League, even East Bengal and Mohun Bagan fans. The extra support comes from the stands and especially for a club like Mohammedan, whose fans have stayed in both good and bad times, so you want to do well for them. The time is such that we can't have them but we want to make them happy," he said.
Rawat said the lockdown was a huge challenge for his team as they were unable to practice at all and now coming directly to a competition, it is tough. . After such long break, coming directly into competitive situation, that's the biggest challenge. But I think we have coped well, the team is in good shape. Any time you get for preparation is less. It was a complete lockdown and we couldn't train but that was for our safety, if we are healthy we can play. If we could have got more time in Kolkata, it would have been better but it's the same for everyone," he expressed.
Law, on the other hand, shared that coming into the bubble and being locked inside for four days was tough and he had yoga and strength sessions with his players virtually to keep his boys active.
Mohammedan's captain Priyant Singh elaborated on how the players felt on those first four days and how the yoga sessions helped them all. "We had a camp before coming into the bubble and then suddenly when we came here, it felt like a hospital and it was mentally painful. Never have I experienced something like that. Coming from high-intensity training to just nothing. It was more about mental pressure on us. Coach helped us a lot with yoga, power and fitness training, we felt good about our fitness. But mentally we had pressure, the digestion of food was a problem. And then when we hit the ground after 4 days, we felt tight, it was problematic. But coanewsch helped us through that," he explained.