What do you do when one of the biggest clubs in India come calling for your services? That`s a question that can stump even the best of coaches. Karim Bencherifa, coach of Salgaocar FC, decided that he would grasp the opportunity with both hands, when Mohun Bagan were interested in acquiring the Moroccan, in a bid to save the club from spiralling down even further. Bencherifa would be signing a lucrative 19-month contract which is worth rupees 2.5 crore, making him the best paid coach in Indian football history.
Bencherifa, who had coached Bagan previously, from 2008-2010, had made an exit from the Kolkata club under tense circumstances. However, this time Bagan would no doubt roll out the niceties to bring one of the most astute coaches in the country.
It is reliably learnt that Bencherifa, who has a contract with Salgaocar till May 2013, had a meeting with club chairman Shivanand Salgaocar twice in the last four days. The chairman had mentioned to him to honour his contract in full. Bencherifa`s contract has a clause that should the club choose to fire him or he opts to resign, the Moroccan would have to serve a mandatory one-month notice period.
This puts both Salgaocar and Bagan in a precarious position. The exit clause in Bencherifa`s contract will require him to coach the Goan club till November 17th, a day ironically enough, when Salgaocar are set to play Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium. The Kolkata club will have to remain without a coach till then and Bencherifa will also have to perform his regular duties at the Goan club with his mind clearly at Bagan.
Mohun Bagan, who have begun the season in disastrous fashion, would need Bencherifa`s services immediately as they have a tough round of fixtures until November 17th. These include a trip to Pune to face Durand cup winners Air India, followed by a home game against Sporting Clube de Goa and more travelling, this time to Delhi to face ONGC FC.
Should the club continue their horrendous form till then, Bencherifa, should he be successful with Bagan, will only be able to do a patch-up job without entertaining any hopes for the title.
November 17 would prove to be a very interesting matchday which would see Salgaocar go up against Bagan at Kolkata,with Bencherifa facing his future employers. An indication of just how tough the going is to be for the Moroccan at Bagan is in the list of fixtures post November 17. The Mariners face three daunting away trips to play Mumbai FC, Dempo SC and Pune FC followed by the Kolkata Derby against East Bengal.
According to sources close to Salgaocar FC, it is widely rumoured that assistant coach Peter Vales would be taking over as head coach from Bencherifa.
The Moroccan explained his decision to his players, quite a few of who, were a touch emotional after hearing the shock news. Bencherifa assured them that he would be there for a month.
A new chapter begins for both clubs involved as it would be seen just how Bencherifa would turn the season around for the Mariners.