Both teams wear an almost completely new look from the last campaign.
On the eve of a brand new season of Indian football’s premier competition, the 11th season of Hero I-League 2017/18 both, the home side Minerva Punjab and visiting giants Mohun Bagan, gave an insight of what is about to happen on the opening day of the new season.
Newly appointed head coach of Minerva Punjab Wankhem Khogen Singh was asked about the new faces in his squad.
“There have been many changes since last year for Minerva Punjab. We have selectively picked up a pretty young side. Most of our players are in their early 20s which suggest we believe in our youth system.”
Minerva signed 5 new foreigners this season while retaining the services of Lago who was on loan to Lonestar Kashmir last season.
“Some of the foreign signing for this season are Toshiya who hails from Japan and plays in the defensive midfield position. Another great prospect is Kassim from Senegal who partners Toshiya in midfield”, the Manipuri coach replied.
Captain of Minerva Punjab Sukhdev Singh was asked about the popularity of football in Punjab.
“There are many pockets all over India in which football is extremely popular e.g. The Northeast region, Kerala, Goa, West Bengal. Punjab was a big powerhouse in the 20th Century. If you look at last 4 years the football in Punjab is back on track. People are getting familiar with the game, children are taking a big interest in football in some areas such as Malpur which comes in rural areas of Punjab”, he said.
When the Sanjoy Sen, head coach of Mohun Bagan was asked about his team’s preparation ahead of their first game, he replied, “The team is almost new. Last year we were able to beat Minerva Punjab and this season also we expect the same outcome. We came very late in Ludhiana yesterday, we reached very late due to Flight problem. As we are playing an away match so it would have been better than we had an extra session of practice but now we need to deal with what we have in hand.”
Mohun Bagan had a mixed pre-season this year but Sanjoy Sen was pretty straight that pre-season results don’t reflect the team’s preparations.
“The Pre-season is all about the preparation for the season and not much about the results. If you look at our match against FC Pune City which we lost by 4-1 the result could have been a lot different as we created much more chances than the opposition. So I feel content with that performance and expect a great game tomorrow.”
Minerva Punjab will play Mohun Bagan tomorrow at 5:30 PM in Guru Nanak Dev Stadium, Ludhiana, Punjab under floodlights.
Meanwhile, both teams will observe a one-minute silence tomorrow in the memory of late former AIFF President Mr. Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi.