A history of foreign physical trainers at East Bengal FC!

Published by Sabyasachi C on

Last Updated 9:30 AM 5th May 2020 .

Indian football has always been lagging behind with the global standards in terms of infrastructure and adherence to sports science. Until very recently we witnessed the days of semi professional football where coaches without proper license had charge over the team and there was little effort from the team management to focus on physical fitness of the players. Hence, what was obvious did happen, the Indian players failed miserably to cope up with the ever so growing physicality of the beautiful game, whenever they faced foreign opponents whether in the club or national colours.

On the verge of completion of a centenary, East Bengal Football Club has been always regarded as a progressive mind in the Indian Football universe, who had the tradition to bring about changes ahead of their contemporary. Infact, East Bengal FC was the very first team in Indian football to appoint a dedicated physical trainer back in 1969 when they appointed Kali Sinha with the team.

Here, we will talk about the history of foreign licensed physical trainers that has worked at East Bengal FC till date.

2003/04 – ?? Kevin Jackson

In 2003, coach Subhash Bhowmick had already won all 5 trophies his team participated in the previous season, including the National Football League title.

Read more: Remembering 2002/03 when East Bengal FC bragged a Quintuple!

The team management had received an invitation from Jakarta to participate in the ASEAN Club Championship tournament where teams like BEC Tero Sasana, who had already reached the Final of the 2003 AFC Champions League, would be participating.

Coach Subhash Bhowmick took on the challenge with open arms and after revamping the squad by bringing in the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Mahesh Gawli, Debjit Ghosh etc. he decided to plan a proper pre-season camp that Indian football never saw before. That was when East Bengal FC appointed the very first foreign physical trainer in the history of Kolkata and Indian Football: South African Kevin Jackson.

Kevin Jackson who was a certified physical trainer was referred to Subhash Bhowmick by then Indian cricket team physio Adrian le Roux. Kevin Jackson came in and set up a routine for the players in the pre-season camp ahead of the team’s journey to Jakarta and the impact he had on the performance of the Red and Gold brigade would completely change the way Indian clubs looked at the appointment of a certified physio for their teams.

East Bengal FC fought neck and neck with top Asian teams in the ASEAN Club Championship and completely outclassed the favourites BEC Tero Sasana in the Final, to achieve the historic triumph in Jakarta, which would certainly be remembered as one of the greatest moments in Indian Football history.

2004/05 – ??????? Peter McKnight

After completely dominating the Indian football for two seasons and winning 8 trophies, including of becoming the first team to win back-to-back National Football League titles, coach Subhash Bhowmick wanted to carry on with what he had started the previous season and this time as per his suggestion the club appointed Englishman Peter McKnight who was also a certified Sports science professional and a trained physio.

Peter McKnight took over the team and conducted the pre-season camp ahead of the 2004/05 season as the team was preparing to travel to England to participate in the Centenary tournament of Premier League giants Leicester City FC at the Walker Stadium (now known as King Power Stadium).

The impact was also immediate for Peter McKnight’s inclusion as East Bengal FC led by Subhash Bhowmick was praised massively on their performance against Leicester City FC at their home, where they lost just by a solitary penalty goal from Trevor Benjamin. The Red and Gold brigade fought shoulder to shoulder against a top flight English side and it was certainly possible because of the team management’s vision to include a certified physical trainer. Peter McKnight also came in for a 6 weeks pre-season camp in the following season too.

2009/10 – ?? Mashiedee Sulaiman

In 2009 Subhash Bhowmick once again took charge over a very underperforming East Bengal team after coach Stanley Rosario resigned. He led to a famous 3-0 Kolkata Derby victory over Mohun Bagan where the Red and Gold brigade had not defeated their arch-rivals for over 2 seasons.

Once the season ended, Subhash Bhowmick like he previously did during his successful stint back in 2002-2005, planned for a pre-season camp, and this time the team would travel to Puri, Odisha and he brought in Malaysian physical trainer Mashiedee Sulaiman who would join him on the pre-season camp for the infamous “cobra training” on the beaches of Puri.

However, this time Subhash Bhowmick’s team failed miserably and he had to resign after the embarrassing 5-3 defeat to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in the I-League.

2010 – ?? Monica Ahluwalia

After Philippe de Ridder took charge over East Bengal in the 2009/10 season, East Bengal FC were in a spot of bother in the I-League even after winning the Federation Cup title. The team had been suffering with fitness issues and were fighting to save relegation.

On the recommendation from Indian skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, who too had suffered an injury while playing in an AFC Cup tie against Al Ittihad of Syria, the team management brought in Indian origin Australian fitness and nutrition expert Monica Ahluwalia, who would work on the diet, rehab and fitness program for the East Bengal players. Monica had previously worked with the likes of A-League giants like Sydney FC before joining the Red and Gold brigade for the short stint. She was also the first and only female physio ever appointed by the club.

2013/14 – ?? Americo Falopa

In 2013, East Bengal FC qualified for the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup however coach Trevor James Morgan left his charge after the end of the season. East Bengal FC team management then brought in veteran Brazilian coach Marcos Falopa who was assisted by his son Americo Falopa as the goalkeeping and physical trainer for the side.

The team conducted a pre-season camp at Kalyani ahead of facing Indonesian team Semen Padang in the two leg quarterfinal tie. East Bengal FC team looked sharp in both the games and made history when they qualified for the Semi Final of the AFC Cup unbeaten throughout until then. The team however lost out to eventual Champions Al-Kuwait SC and the father-son duo soon left after failing to get a good start in the I-League.

2017/18 – ?? Djair Miranda Garcia

In 2017/18 season, East Bengal FC appointed coach Khalid Jamil and along with came in the ever so fan favourite Brazilian physical trainer Djair Miranda Garcia, who had in previous stints with United SC and Mohun Bagan did wonders with the team.

Djair Miranda Garcia soon became a fan favourite with his charming personality and interaction with the fans and also made the team which was on the older side to be physically at their top, which was evident from the performance on pitch. The team missed out on the I-League very narrowly and also reached the inaugural Super Cup final defeating ISL sides like Mumbai City FC and FC Goa on the way.

2018 onwards – ?? Carlos Nodar Paz

In 2018, the East Bengal club went on a complete overhaul as new investors Quess Corp. took over the club’s footballing department and they brought in a Spanish trio: coach Alejandro Menendez, assistant coach Mario Rivera and physical trainer Carlos Nodar Paz to take charge of the team just ahead of the I-League.

Carlos Nodar too like Djair Miranda Garcia became a fan favourite for his charming nature and interactions with the fans. The team went on a pre-season camp to Malaysia ahead of the I-League and the impact could be clearly seen by the fans as some of the players like Jobby Justin, Kassim Aidara, Samad Ali Mallick etc. who were below par and very slow in the Calcutta League, were suddenly influential to the team’s performance in the I-League.

East Bengal once again missed out on the coveted title by a single point but Carlos Nodar was retained by the team management and he had signed on a two year extension with the Red and Gold brigade. The 2019/20 season did not go well for the club but the fan’s certainly would want to keep Carlos Nodar Paz for the upcoming season too even if the team plays in the ISL.

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