Feni Soccer Club captain Akbar Hossain Ridon (L) and his Mohammedan counterpart Zahid Hasan Emily pose with the Independence Cup ahead of the title clash today. PHOTO: STAR
Having already claimed a slice of history in top-flight football, Feni Soccer Club will look to create yet another record by becoming the first team from outside the capital to win the Independence Cup Football tournament. Their last hurdle is favourites Mohammedan SC in today's final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Feni, whose best achievement at the top level so far was playing the Federation Cup semifinal in their debut season in 2009, are considered the dark horses against crowd-pullers Mohammedan, who are seemingly on track to win their first trophy of the season after their miserable performance in the Federation Cup.
Though Feni are at the bottom of the Bangladesh Premier League they have dramatically gone from strength to strength in the tournament, bolstered by the inclusion of new Gambian players who have provided new hope. Their performances have given ample proof of this rejuvenation; they ousted holders Sheikh Russel KC and Brothers Union before coming arriving at the final hurdle.
Having admitted the change in the team's performance due to the inclusion of foreign players, Feni Soccer Club Gambian coach Omar K Sise said, “We have great respect for Mohammedan, who are a better side than Feni but we are going there to work hard. We will come up with what we know better and won't go down without a fight.”
“It is possible to beat Mohammedan in regulation time as both sides consist of 11 players but I won't say what will happen tomorrow (Saturday) but definitely we will go there for the win,” said a confident Omar, who believed that unity and teamwork are the main strengths of his side.
Echoing the coach's sentiment, an upbeat Feni captain Akbar Hossain Ridon said, “We have already achieved something by reaching the final and are eager to achieve even bigger success by winning the tournament.”
The former Mohammedan striker believes Feni will play without any pressure; rather the pressure is now on Mohammedan because of their large number of supporters.
The way Feni have been performing, overcoming Mohammedan in today's final may be possible but the record is not in their favour -- Feni have only one league-match win over Mohammedan in 2012 at their home ground but have suffered eight losses and drew thrice since their entrance into top-level football in 2009.
“It is true that this Feni is not the side that played in the first leg of the League as they now have good foreign players, good scorers and good results in the tournament but we will go there for a victory,” said Mohammedan's Portuguese coach Rui Capella Batista.
“The final is final and it is a difficult match where any side can win but we will stick to our offensive strategy and win the match,” said Batista at the pre-match briefing at the BFF House yesterday.
Batista also looked very confident of winning the tournament and for good reason; as he mentioned, Mohammedan suffered only one defeat in the 15 matches since he took charge of the Black and Whites.
Mohammedan, who are in third position in the league table, have been bolstered by the inclusion of towering defender Ubom Henry, who along with Cameroonian defender Bayback makes it difficult for opposition strikers to break through Mohammedan's backline.
(L) Mohammedan players jog during a training session at the club's ground in Motijheel while (R) Feni Soccer Club's Gambian coach Omar K Sise conducts a training session at the Kamalapur Stadium yesterday. PHOTOS: STAR
Like the tie between Mohammedan and Abahani, the final is again deemed a battle between Mohammedan's backline and Feni's forward line but Mohammedan have the advantage of having a better midfield comprising Hemanta Vincent, new signing Zongo Ousseni and Damian Chogozie.
Mohammedan captain Zahid Hasan Emily feels the pressure of the final but he believes that they have experienced players to overcome that and deliver the first trophy of the season.
It will also be a match between two competing aspirations -- Feni's eagerness to come out of the shadows and announce their arrival at the top level and Mohammedan's expectation of justifying their favourites' tag.