Kolkata: Urging his team to put the tumultuous last few weeks behind, Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sourav Ganguly on Tuesday said that fights and controversies are part of every sport, adding that it's important to finish on a high.
If poor refereeing decisions were not enough, reports of a rift between coach Antonio Habas and captain Luis Garcia and Co proved to be a setback for the team, which have three away matches on the trot before concluding the Indian Super League group stage at home on December 10.
"Tell me which 'Ganguly has not fought with Dravid', 'Dhoni has not fought with Virat Kohli' or 'Messi has not been in trouble with Neymar' in Barcelona.
"I've seen teams where players have not spoken to each other but have still gone on to win the World Cup. You need to be a bit more kind to us at times," Ganguly said.
"It's part and parcel in sport. I woke up today laughing that players went to practice 40 minutes late when they actually were discussing what to do in the session."
Garcia and Co had a team meeting at the stadium yesterday and their manager Habas reportedly had no idea about the development and was kept waiting for 40 minutes at the ground. Rubbishing reports of a rift, Ganguly asked which sport or team or player in the world did not make headlines in a tournament.
"Coach was very much aware that the players needed 40 minutes to be on the field. I have played IPL for five years, sometime you need that break from each other, have that quiet session. And if that half an hour is seen in a way that the coach is not in good terms with footballers, then we've got nothing to do."
ATK have lost two in last four games to slip to No 2 position, and defeats included their 1-2 loss in Kerala because of a refereeing error. Lack of goalline technology had robbed ATK of a draw in Kochi as the assistant referee had ruled out a sure-shot goal in ATK's favour when Garcia's stoppage time shot had crossed the line after coming off the cross piece.
But Ganguly said they would overcome this stage with flying colours. "We started brilliantly then we probably slipped a bit and we'll finish well. In sport, every day is a new day. Past has got no meaning in sport whether you win or lose.
"That we're still second the group shows that we're still a strong team. You got to wake up every morning believing that you can win. You have seen us playing at our best," the former India captain said.
Taking a dig at the refereeing bloomer, Ganguly further said: "We did get two (goals) in the last game but we finished with one. We should not have lost that game. Well, it's not a criticism but we felt that we should have come out with one point. But that did not happen.
"So we've to put that behind and come out of that. We're still second in the group. We still have four more games to go before the semis are decided.
"The element of surprise does not stay forever. Be it cricket or football, in a long tournament like this there will be phases where you won't win," Ganguly added.
Flanked by Ethiopian forward Fikru Teferra and goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Ganguly said: "In such a long tournament, the important thing is to reach the semis first, then it's anybody's game in the knock-outs whoever play well.
"It's important in sport to be aware of where you are and try and get better. Hopefully, we will make the last four then it's on the day in the knockout." Fikru too hoped that they would get out of this stage quickly.
"I don't know what happened recently but all of us are trying our best, we're preparing ourselves to make the semis and win the trophy. We're trying our best to bring our confidence best."
"We'are not playing badly, we're suffering from some refereeing bloomers, otherwise we almost made the semis," Subhasish rued. ATK will leave for Pune on November 27 before going to Delhi and Mumbai for their three successive away games.
The Kolkata franchise will concluded their league stage at home versus FC Goa on December 10. Ganguly was talking on the sidelines of a 'meet and greet' promotional programme for the customers Aircel, ATK's sponsors.