When holder Dhaka Abahani Limited face Chittagong Abahani in the grand finale of the 2017 Walton Federation Cup on Tuesday at Bangabandhu National Stadium, the reigning champion will not only fight the opposition but their players' fatigue that came about due to tight schedule. The match begins at 7:30pm.
Abahani's pre-match conference on Monday was dominated by words of complaints from Croatian head coach Drago Mamic, who blamed the BFF for the Cup fixtures which made them play a number of important matches within a short space of time.
The Sky Blues played their last 2017 AFC Cup match against Mohun Bagan on Wednesday before facing Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in the Federation Cup semi-final on Saturday. Especially in the Sheikh Jamal game, some of the Abahani players struggled for fitness in the second half. Mamic feared that the fatigue factor would reappear in the final.
BFF professional league committee chairman Abdus Salam Murshedy was sitting next to Mamic when the Croatian was uttering these words. In reply, Murshedy said they will take the issue into consideration while making the fixtures in future.
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Abahani captain Mamun Miah (2R) poses for photographs with the Federation Cup trophy alongside his Chittagong Abahani counterpart Zahid Hossain (2L) at BFF House on Monday COURTESY
The two sides faced each other three times last season with all producing different outcomes. In the first encounter, Chittagong Abahani beat Abahani 2-0 in the Independence Cup final. The first match in the top-flight ended in a draw while Abahani won the second leg.
While five-time professional league champion Abahani are looking forward to retaining their title and seal their eighth Federation Cup in total, Chittagong Abahani will be playing the final of the tournament for the first time in history. After strengthening the squad with big-budget sponsors in the 2015-16 year, the port city outfit won their first ever professional tournament, the Independence Cup, last season.
Experienced coach Saiful Bari Titu will be guiding the Chittagong outfit on Tuesday. He was also in the dug-out in last year’s final as the head coach of Arambagh Krira Sangha. Titu now can count on a better squad comprising experienced national attackers like Mamunul Islam and Zahid Hossain.
“Abahani are one of the best teams. They already tasted success of this title before. Their advantage is that they played against some big teams in the AFC Cup. Our target will be not to take extra pressure and play our natural game,” said Titu, adding that defender Alison Udoka will be fit for the final after missing the semi-final against Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society due to fever.
Sadly for the football fans however, there will be no live telecast of the final.
WHAT THEY SAID
Drago Mamic, Abahani coach
I saw many teams but unfortunately I did not see Chittagong Abahani. I heard they are also strong team that’s why we will be trying to give our maximum to what we can do at this moment. But it will be difficult because they will also give their maximum to win this cup. I’m expecting a very hard battle on the field.
Saiful Bari Titu, Chittagong Abahani coach
The team are improving but there is inconsistency in maintaining the consistency in every game. I’m very happy to be in the final. It’s like a warm-up tournament ahead of the league. There is no alternative to victory. We will try our best.