Diabate enjoys 'special moment'
Soon after the presentation ceremony was over following the pulsating Federation Cup final in Cumilla yesterday, Mohammedan captain Souleymane Diabate ran up the stairs with two trophies in his hands --one for the top-scorer and another for the player of the tournament -- and a crest for becoming the most valuable player of the final. He walked into the dressing room, where the Mohammedan players were revelling following a pulsating win over arch-rivals Abahani.
The Malian sat still and opened his phone to video call his family back home. He was calm, reluctant to get carried away by the euphoria around him, embodying the mindset he had shown when he calmly dispatched his spot-kick in the penalty shootout after netting four goals in regulation and extra time.
Diabate has been playing football in Bangladesh for five years now but he hardly gets recognition for his efforts, dwarfed by the fame of more illustrious foreigners like Robson Robinho and Daniel Colindres. But he was unfazed by the lack of limelight, just pleased with what he and his team had just achieved.
"This is the first time that I've scored four goals in a final in my career. This is a special moment," Diabate told reporters as he held the trophies. "Not only me, all the players (deserve credit for this victory."
The 32-year-old forward, who dedicated this victory to his family, said this team could only get stronger with the right management. "I believe if we keep these players next season, this will be a very strong team (in the league)," Diabate said.
The forward's words were echoed by coach Alfaz Ahmed, who had taken over midway through the season with the Black and Whites languishing closer to the bottom of the league table.
"Diabate played tremendous football. Muzaffarov played with a broken hand. Everyone gave their all today and the commitment they showed was extraordinary," the former national striker said.
"The changes that I made at half-time turned the game around," opined Alfaz, who believed this win would spark the club's resurgence.
Alfaz's opposite number Mario Lemos, who had never lost a final in Bangladesh before, blamed the lethargy of his players at the start of the second half for the defeat.
"The first 15 minutes of the second half, we were so slow and played with such low intensity that we allowed Mohammedan to come back into the game. When you give confidence to these players, it's very difficult," the Portuguese said, adding that he took the blame for enduring a first trophyless season at Abahani and thereby for failing to secure an AFC Cup spot.