heikh Russell Krira Chakra clinched their maiden Bangladesh Premier League title with a game in hand when they beat Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Limited 2-1 at the
Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday.
The win, their 11th in the league, gave Russell an unassailable lead in the points table with 35 points from 15 matches, also earned a rare treble for the football’s new powerhouse.
Russell also won the Federation Cup and the Independence Cup and had always been in contention for the league honours until a defeat of fellow title contenders Abahani inflicted by BJMC took them to the brink.
To confirm the title they needed only a draw against Jamal but Russell did more than what they were required to with goals from Zahid Hossain and Zahid Hasan Ameli helping them in securing a come-from-behind win.
Coach Maruful Haque, who also got the taste of his first league title, attributed the success to team spirit and professionalism of his players.
`The main reason of the success was team spirit,’ said an ecstatic Maruf. ‘From the beginning I tried maintaining a harmony which was not an easy job. We assembled a squad with players from different clubs and it was very difficult to turn them into a unit.’
Maruf began his professional coaching career five years ago and over the time has emerged as a successful coach. He led Mohammedan to the league runners-up trophy in his first two seasons before achieving the same feat with Muktijoddha.
In pursuit of an elusive league title, he joined Russell two seasons ago and was finally rewarded for his perseverance.
`My job was mainly to keep up the team spirit. I also tried to give the players confidence,’ he said.
‘One major reason for us to win the title is that we did not lose too many points against fellow contenders Jamal and Abahani. In some matches we came from behind to win the games, which showed our character. Boys showed their temperament throughout the 90 minutes in almost every game. They displayed a “never say die” attitude which helped us a great deal,’ added Maruf.
A good back-up on the bench also helped the side throughout the campaign, insisted the coach.
`We had a big squad with some quality players on the bench. When the regular players failed someone from the bench came to rescue the team. Sometimes we had to play without our key players like Sony Norde, Mamunul Haque, Zahid Hossain and Zahid Hasan Amely but our back-up players have done a fantastic job.
Maruf reserved some special praise for Haitian playmaker Sony Norde, easily the best overseas player in the league, who took himself to a different level in some matches despite his apparent selfishness.
‘He is a special player, no doubt and in some matches he also saved the team. If he had not been selfish, it would have been easier for us,’ he said of Sony.
Sony, who graduated from the Boca Juniors academy in Argentina, is unlikely to play in the next season in Dhaka as he has already received a number of invitations from Mexican and Indonesian teams.
`I have already requested the club officials to keep Sony for the next season and as far as I know the officials are also trying very hard to retain the services of Norde.
‘But he might be not available in the next season because he has already got a few attractive proposals from Mexico and Indonesia,’ said Maruf.
-With New Age input