I-League football clubs are falling apart. Who's in charge? Yossi checks.
One weekend, three games, Worldwide. All the information.
The big leagues of Europe are in a break, but BabaGol never stops. This weekend we will be with an old-fashioned derby in Kolkata, with the Australian league to check the big changes in the game over there, and we could not miss the international clashes, so we have an exotic one. Let's go!
(All the hours are in CET local time)
Saturday, 1200, Mohun Bagan – East Bengal (Indian I-League)
With all the respect to the ISL, we prefer the original football, where players play for their clubs and people, and not for their bucks. On Saturday, the I-League will provide us an extremely hot match, the derby of Kolkata. Mohun Bagan, the league leaders, will face their local rivals, East Bengal who are placed in the 5th place with 5 points behind.
Mohun Bagan, established in 1899, is one of the oldest clubs in Asia. Historically, the team represented the Western areas of Bengal region, and the fans of the team were known as the rich people of the region. Last season, Mohun Bagan had troubles and almost relegated, but now they came back to the top places of the table, wishing for first title since 2009. This season had extraordinary opening for the club with record of 5 wins and 3 draws. The biggest names of the team are Kingshuk Debnath, who led Atletico de Kolkata to the ISL title, Katsumi Yusa, Japanese foreign player that even played a season in Paraguay, and Pierre Boya, who made long trip in Europe while playing in Serbia, France, Romania and Austria.
East Bengal is the complete opposite of its municipal rival. The team was founded as a response to the rich people club, Mohun Bagan. Like their name, they represent the poor Eastern parts of Bengal region, including a small part of Bangladesh. With only one defeat, East Bengal wants to make another step to its first title since 2004. They finished as the runner-ups in three out of the four previous seasons. Pay attention to Ranti Martins, who scored 12 goals in eight league games, Milan Susak, a Croatian-Australian player who played also in Serbia and Germany, and Deepak Mondal, who capped 62 times for the Indian national team.
This derby is everything for true football lovers, a clash between tradition and money to hard-day workers and low class people. Time for a revolution?
Sunday, 0600, Wellington Pheonix – FC Sydney (Australian A-League)
It's amazing how quickly things can change in football. Few weeks ago, Adelaide United and Perth Glory were here as league leaders, but now they are part from a close race in the top of the league. In case you forgot, the two top teams will qualify automatically to the playoff’ semifinals, while the next four teams will play in the quarterfinals. On Sunday, Wellington Phoenix and FC Sydney will play for the semifinals spots.
Wellington Pheonix is the guest franchise at A-League, as they are basedfrom New Zealand. The team didn't qualified to the playoffs since 2012, and in the past two seasons they even finished in the bottom of the table. The Phoenix are the current league leader with 42 points, and they want to increase the gap in order to confirm their semifinals spot. By the way, this weekend their reserve team will play in the New Zealand league playoffs, which means that the team can win playoff’s promotion simultaneously in two different nations. The top players of the team are Nathan Burns, the team top scorer with 13 league goals, Roy Krishna, Fiji international player who played in New Zealand during previous seasons, and Roly Bonevacia, 23, a Dutch youngster who played in Ajax youth teams.
While Wellington is leading the table, FC Sydney is in the race for the 2nd place. They are on 3rd place with 38 points, same as the 2nd and the 4th places, and one point ahead of the 5th place. As a team from New Zealand, Wellington Phoenix cannot qualify to the AFC Champions League, so 2nd place will also guarantee a spot for next season's Champions League group stage. The team will missed few of its stars such as Saša Ognenovski, who is injured, and Marc Janko, who will play with his national team in Austria, but still they have some good players. The Serbian duo, Nikola Petković, who played in Germany and Turkey, and Miloš Dimitrijević, who played in France, Shane Smeltz, who played 51 times for New Zealand national team, and Ivan Necevski, who was the goalkeeper in Sydney's last title.
Every week the ladder is changing, the battle for each playoff spot is getting harder. There is no doubt. This match will be intense and decisive.
Monday, 0300, Honduras – French Guiana (CONCACAF Gold Cup Play-offs)
While the lower-ranked teams of CONCACAF will play their first qualifiers for 2018 World Cup, two teams will play for the last spot in the 2015 Gold Cup, which will took place this summer. The 5th placed team in the Copa Centroamericana, Honduras, will play against the 5th ranked team in the Caribbean Cup, French Guiana. French Guiana’s victory 3:1 in the first leg was a complete sensation, so Honduras needs to win their home match.
Honduras is one of the best teams in CONCACAF. They qualified for the last two World Cups, and in four out of the last five Gold Cups, they finished in the 3rd place. Now, before they start their road to the third consecutive World Cup, they will try to qualify once again, to the continental championships. Their newly appointed coach is Jorge Luis Pinto, the Colombian who led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals in the last World Cup. The key players of the team are Noel Valladares, who made 126 appearances for the national team, Maynor Figueroa, who plays for Hull City, Emilio Izaguirre, who plays for Celtic, and the talented hot prospect Andy Najar from Anderlecht.
On the other hand, French Guiana will try to make a history, and qualify for the first time to the competition. The national football association is a full member of CONCACAF, but they will not play in the World Cup qualifiers, as they are not FIFA members. Don't forget that French Guiana is a French Oversea Department, and the local football association is kind of a local branch of the French association. The squad is mainly composed by players who play in the domestic league, but there are some players who play in France such as Ludovic Ball from Lens, Donovan Léon from Auxerrre, Sloan Privat from Caen and Simon Falette from Brest.
A team with a major experience against a tiny team with big expectations, and both will play for the last spot. Should be a tough one!