Dhiman Sarkar, Kolkata: It was under Jose Mourinho that Helder Postiga sealed a first-team berth at Porto but
beyond that too there’s a link between the player and coach. Rio Ave. It was Postiga’s last club before he became the Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) marquee for the second season of the Indian Super League (ISL); one where he scored five goals in 10 games in the second half of 2015-16.
And it was at Rio Ave that Mourinho’s father Felix lost his job on December 25, 1984, after getting them promoted and taking them to a cup final. Now coming out of a slump that had “football Einsteins” questioning his ability, a young Mourinho learnt after that sacking that past performances don’t matter.
Postiga was superb in the way he set up ATK’s first goal of ISL 3 and his link-up play with Iain Hume looked promising. Just as his brace did against Chennaiyin FC last year. But Postiga, whose goals helped Portugal past England in the 2004 Euro and the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals, has spent more time off the pitch tending to injuries than on it. ATK coach Jose Molina said nothing at Saturday’s pre-match media conference ahead of the game against FC Goa that indicated otherwise.
Not just that, ATK may also have to cope with the unavailability of Bikramjit Singh and central defender Tiri. With Arnab Mondal, Tiri has formed a defensive pairing crucial to ATK’s fortunes. Should Tiri be unavailable, Portuguese defender Henrique Sereno may step in, said Molina. “He has trained with us for over a week,” said Molina.
ATK do have a bit of history in their favour. They haven’t lost to FC Goa in the short history of the ISL and the visitors go into this fourth-round tie still looking for their first point. They haven’t really settled down and in a line-up that makes it mandatory to have five Indians, FC Goa’s contingent of home-grown players haven’t been up to scratch. They lost Narayan Das and Pronay Haldar, Thongkhosiem Haokip, Bikramjit to other franchises. Coach Zico put it down to the uncertainty about the team’s future, saying things would have been significantly different had the fracas after the ISL 2 final not happened. “We were a set team,” said Zico on Saturday.
Not just that, Jonatan Lucca joined FC Pune City and Leo Moura, according to Zico, left it too late to inform the franchise that Brazilian club Santa Cruz wasn’t releasing him. Add to that the injuries to marquee Lucio, Gregory Arnolin, Luciano Sabrosa and Robin Singh and things don’t look too rosy for the team that came within a minute of winning the ISL last term.
But maybe because Zico has seen it all in 45 years of top-flight football as player and coach, he could say that nothing is lost. Yet. The champions of the past two seasons, ATK and Chennaiyin FC, were teams that finished third and fourth after the league phase, he pointed out. There is no advantage in finishing first in the league so the aim is to get to the top four, he said. “And if we beat Kolkata tomorrow, we will be just two points behind them.”
Along with Delhi Dynamos, ATK are the competition’s only unbeaten team and full points at home will take them to second place with a match in hand. They will be up against a team that has nothing to lose. Just what the doctor ordered for a good Sunday evening of football.