Abahani became the first Bangladeshi team to go into the inter-zonal semifinals of the AFC Cup in 2019, but ever since then, they have had a difficult time competing in Asia’s second-tier club tournament.
In each of the previous three iterations of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), the six-time champions of the tournament did not go beyond the preliminary round or play-off round because they were defeated by teams from either the Maldives or India.
By virtue of the fact that they had won the BPL, the Bashundhara Kings had secured a berth for themselves in the group stage of the South Asian zone. Meanwhile, Abahani was given the opportunity to engage in the group-stage qualifications since they were either the runners-up in the league or the winners of the Federation Cup.
In the second round of the preliminary competition, Abahani will compete against Club Eagles, a team from the Maldives. If the Sky Blues are successful in clearing that obstacle, then the play-off match might be against Mohun Bagan.
There is reason for hope over Abahani’s performance in this year’s AFC Cup due to a new regulation that permits teams to field up to six players from other countries. However, Head Coach Mario Lemos is also aware of the potential drawbacks.
The club has benefited from the new addition. “We are getting five new foreign players, but not much time because all of them are from different clubs, like Sheikh Jamal, Mohammedan SC, and Chittagong Abtahani,” Lemos told The Daily Star yesterday. “We are excited to have them, but we won’t have much time to train with them.”
“At this point, they are required to adjust to the style of play that we want to implement and establish connections with new players.” It is up to me to get to know the players and figure out how to use them in the most effective manner imaginable.
Daniel Colindres, Peter Norah, and Raphael Augusto were unable to play for the Sky Blues this season, thus the club decided to keep two international players on its roster: Yousef Mohammad, a defender from Syria, and Emeka Ogbogh, a forward from Nigeria.
The Dhanmondi-based club has brought in five new players for the preliminary round, including a forward from the Caribbean named Stuart Cornelius, a midfielder from Uzbekistan named Muzaffar Muzaffarov, a forward from Nigeria named Ifeagwu Ojukwu David, an Egyptian midfielder named Mostofa Mahmoud Kahraba, and a defender from Brazil named Danilo Augusto.
The AFC Cup match was scheduled to take place in Sylhet on August 16, and Abahani kicked up their training for the tournament on July 29 in Dhaka.
The forward Nabib Newaj Jibon thinks that they “have an advantage of playing on home ground amid familiar conditions”
When asked whether they would have trouble adapting to new foreign players, Jibon believes that they would readily knit together due to the familiarity of having played against each other in the league.
Lemos, who coached Abahani in 2019, stated that he believes that playing six foreigners gives them an edge this time since Maldivian players have somewhat superior technique than Bangladeshi players have.
It’s possible that Club Eagles may not currently have six international players on its roster, and I’m not sure whether the club plans to bring in any further international players in the near future. I believe that players from other countries will be the deciding factor in the game, and whomever has the greatest ones will be successful.