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I have always helped my previous clubs to be champions: Ivan Bukenya


East Bengal appoints former Tottenham defender Warren James Hackett as Trevor Morgan’s deputy....

East Bengal’s Ugandan defender Ivan Bukenya signed on the dotted line today before addressing the press in the evening at the club tent. There has been a controversy doing the rounds in social media prior to his arrival about his age as the tall and powerful defender seemed to be 30+ and not 25 from his structure and physique. In the press meet Bukenya replied with a smile to that question.

The tall talismanic defender seemed to have done a lot of homework on the most talked about topic of Kolkata Maidan, East Bengal-Mohun Bagan rivalry as he said, “I have heard about this rivalry from my good friend Alao Adisa Fatai who played for Mohun Bagan few years back. I am excited to be part of the derby in between thousands and lakhs of fans.”

Bukenya has been out from competitive football since September 2016 when he last played for South African Premier Soccer club Kaizer Chiefs. When asked about coping with the conditions and environment, the 25-year old defender who can also play in midfield was smart to reply, “Two weeks here in India is enough to get accustomed to the present conditions. All professional footballers adjust in different conditions in this way, I am confident about it. All these are lame excuses. Nowadays you have to be ready to play on any turf under any conditions. I will have a talk with coach Trevor Morgan after the training begins.”

The former Kaizer Chiefs defender knows well that East Bengal are without a league triumph for the last 13 years and he is here to fulfil that quest. The supporters will have a lot of expectations from him in the defensive line as East Bengal has suffered in the defensive positions without a quality central defender in the last few years. Bukenya said, “Whichever club I have piled my trade for before, those clubs have been the champions under my leadership in defense. I will give my heart out this time too for East Bengal to make them champions.”

Regarding his playing position he said, “I can play in two positions very well one is as a central defender and secondly as a defensive midfielder but I prefer playing at centre-back.” His footballing inspiration is Germany’s Jerome Boateng. He has also got past experience of playing against East Bengal back in 2012 when he came to play for Arbil SC and won the match 2-0.

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Manchester United’s legendary defender Rio Ferdinand has watched him play when he was there for a scouting programme in Africa. Bukenya began his footballing journey in July 2007 during the visit of Ferdinand. He was playing for a Coca-Cola select youth side coached by Mike Mutebi with the likes of Ibrahim Juma, Andrew Buteera and Dennis Guma where they played against Proline FC youngsters. Being on the Coca-Cola side was the vindication of a burgeoning star that was Bukenya and he eventually signed for the Ugandan Super League club. Ferdinand was impressed enough by the talent on show to work with the Proline Academy, which Bukenya was now part of travelling to England and playingnh games against the academy sides of Manchester United and West Ham United in October of that year.

Ivan is contracted with the Red and Gold brigade till the end of the I-League but if he plays well his contract will be renewed. Club Secretary Santosh Bhattacharya said, “He has come to a new environment altogether we hope he will cope with it fast and if he plays well we will extend our contract with him midway through the I-League.”

Bukenya landed in the city on Thursday morning and had a series of medical tests before a fitness test at the club tent on Friday under the supervision of team doctor Shantiranjan Dasgupta and Goalkeeping Coach Abhijit Mondal. He passed those tests and was declared fit but as he has been out of football for two months he has put on some weight. He has been handed a diet plan and has been asked to follow that when he returns to Uganda on Sunday. Ivan had come over here on a tourist visa and as per AIFF rules no player is allowed to play without a business visa and work permit. So he will be returning back and will join the squad ahead of training which commences from 19th December.

Meanwhile, East Bengal have appointed Warren James Hackett of St. Lucia as their new assistant coach for the upcoming I-League season. Hackett will be 45 years of age on December 16, on the day East Bengal head coach Morgan will return to Kolkata for the I-League. Hackett is a former professional footballer who played as an international for Saint Lucia. Hackett was a defender, primarily a left-back, who began his career with Tottenham Hotspur and was part of the 1990 FA Youth Cup winning side, but was released without breaking into the first-team, having spells with Leyton Orient, Doncaster, Mansfield and Barnet.

Earlier in the season Morgan brought Richard Dryden as his assistant coach during the Calcutta Football League but Dryden had said he can’t come this time due to some personal issues. Kerala Blasters physio Simon Maltby has already been appointed as the physio of the Red & Gold brigade for the upcoming season. In the last few seasons East Bengal have always suffered with injury problems with the players and that had cost them the league, that’s why the management is serious about the fitness issues of the players ahead of the new campaign.


Report by Khel Now Correspondent Kushankur Rony Rakshit. Sports passionate and content writer. He is big football and cricket fan.

Published: Sat Dec 03, 2016 11:56 PM IST


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