12.9.2023 A date that will be remembered by every Indian Football fan for a long long time. Granted, Indian football has been submerged in an ocean of both bad news and bad results for a long time now, but yesterday we just hit rock bottom. News of players being held hostage in Thailand sent shock waves throughout the football fraternity. A club versus country duel which was slowly escalating finally reached it's climax. Or should I say, anti climax. No sooner had the news of the player being denied their passports broke out, several media organizations and journalists started re-surfacing the one year old astrologer fiasco, this time involving even more shocking details. hinting at the possible involvement of head coach Igor Stimach. While one might ask, why now suddenly? We are not here to answer that. Let that be the topic for another day, here we focus on another shocking news that came in late night.

Our star winger, Ashique Kuruniyan was injured during the match against Iraq and was subsequently substituted. What's shocking is that the injury now seems serious, a 40% ACL tear as it's reported, which can lead him to be sidelined for a long, long time. So, what happened and how can it affect the Mariners' season? Read on.


The news of the injury was broken first Sayan Mukherjee from News 18. Ashique suffered the injury in the match against Iraq in the first semi final of the King's Cup tournament in Thailand. The extent of the injury was not known at that time, but now many news portals are reporting it might be an ACL injury. Last season we already had 2 ACL injuries to our main players in Tiri and Jony Kauko. The result? Both of them are not a part of our squad this time around. ACL injuries are notorious because they can completely derail a player's career. 

Some journalists have also reported it is a recurrent injury from last season and Ashique will undergo further tests once he returns from Thailand. Of course the injury looks severe, but we can't make any further comment on it unless there's an official statement from the club.

The shocking part of this saga is, the Indian medical staff didn't even bother to do proper evaluation of the extent of the injury. They didn't even try to. Why? No one knows.

Questions must be asked to the AIFF. Is this how they are gonna run football now? Holding players hostage, not looking after their injury or even communicating about it with their parent club? Is this how we are gonna build a sustainable football ecosystem and look after our star players? Will the clubs now ever feel safe about releasing their players for the national camp? This club versus country would not have even exist in the first place if the AIFF had been thorough with their planning and communication. 

Instead of all that Mohun Bagan, the National Club of India, was ready to sacrifice it's players for the need of the nation. And this is the return we got. Pathetic. Unprofessional. But, not unexpected.


The aftermath has been severe to say the least. Mohun Bagan are now unwilling to release Liston for the Asian Games. As a result the Asian Games squad has been made primarily of players from the lower leagues and age group squads. Bagan will feel hard done by all this as Ashique was looking good in the recently concluded Durand cup. He looked lively on the wings with his trickery and quick feet and coach Ferrando trusted him a lot. Ashique will be a costly miss for Bagan, for he can play on the wings, as well as fill up the left back position at times too. 

Finding a replacement won't be easy. We are talking about one of the best wingers in India. The transfer market being closed, it will be interesting to see how we approach this crisis. Here's a few ways Bagan can potentially encounter this crisis without disrupting the team balance.


Liston can be played on the left wing. He's fast, he can shoot and score good goals. The problem? He's been too inconsistent in the last one year. The Liston we witnessed in his first year at the club now seems a distant memory. Can he revive his form? Can he go back to being the " Listiano Colaco" we know he can be? Only time will tell. Liston is a more than handy replacement for Ashique and can help the team offensively. 

Next up, some interesting names. Sahal and Subhasish. Sahal played as a winger at Kerala at times, while Subhasish is a left back by trade. If you ask me, I don't want either to play on the wings. It doesn't make sense. Sahal is a creative force, he needs to be given the roaming playmaker role like Hugo. Sahal's duties lie upfront, laying down the assists and scoring the goals. Putting him on the wings just destroys his talent.

Now for Subhasish, it's again a no. Moving players out of their natural position this close to the start of a long season is not a good idea. Subhasis is solid defensively and his work lies down the pitch. The captain has to marshal the defense this time and we should let him operate from his preferred position.


For the uninitiated, Mohun Bagan has some of the best youngsters in India. Can someone from the youth squad fill up the space left by Ashique?

Let's start with our jewel from Kashmir, Suhail Ahmed Bhatt. Can he fill the space? He's quick, dynamic, excellent technical ability and can score at will. Should we try him at left wing? Well  the fans should ask themselves, can we really afford to waste another promising Indian striker on the wings? Indian National team is full of striker turned wingers now, and we can't afford to ruin another youngster.

If not Suhail, who then? Brijesh and Amandeep come to mind. Can they step up? One thing Juan can do is groom them the "Kiyan Way". Let them get minutes in CFL and other age restricted tournaments, give them 5-10 minutes every ISL match, and slowly integrate them into the team. But do we have that much time to groom youngsters with ample but raw talent? A serious question that should be deeply pondered upon.


Remember last season, we lost Kauko and Tangri? Our management swiftly replaced them with Glan, Gallego and Puitea. While the later two are no longer with us, Glan remains crucial to the team. 

If there's one thing you can count on, it's the Mohun Bagan management. Our management has already spent a fortune on building this team and they won't stop at any cost. Asia is the dream.

But who can be the replacement? The obvious name we can all think of, is none but Naorem Mahesh. He's a serious talent, an extremely talented player with superb pace and technical abilities. Players switching from East Bengal to Mohun Bagan or vice versa is not uncommon. But will East Bengal let go of their prized possession, who is also their best player currently? Mahesh hasn't yet renewed his contract, so keep an eye on him.

Other than Mahesh, there are a few options. Lalrinzuala Chhangte, Bipin Singh among others. But let's be honest, these options don't seem practical as all other teams will require adequate replacement before letting go of their assets.


Mohun Bagan need to act, and fast. Our advice to the readers will be, don't panic, keep calm. Our think tank will act, be it making a tactical change in the formation or bringing in a new face. We can be assured of one thing, this team will conquer never seen before heights in Indian football. Indian National Football team should rectify their mistake in the near future and tidy their act. The season is almost upon us now. Keep reading, and until next time, JOY MOHUN BAGAN !

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