There is a certain good in being bad. The arrogant rub, the undefeated spirit, the unconquerable will, the adamant motivation to carry on when everything else around is falling apart makes us love them despite knowing their follies.
Be it Diego Maradona, George Best, Eric Cantona or Paul Gasgoine; be it John McEnroe, Dennis Rodman, James Hunt or Sebastien Chabal –they have one thing in common. They are all bad boys from the world of sport apart from being maverick, brilliant and luminous.
Atletico de Kolkata is fast earning the very adage with 11 yellow cards, two red cards and three suspensions that include their Manager Antonio Lopez Habas and star striker Fikru Tafarre. However, sitting pretty at the top of the Indian Super League table, the team seems to be letting their game talk for them. And for that ATK is fast gaining fans with over three lakh likes on their social media page alone.
“Football is a contact sport. Fouls are bound to happen. But you cannot ignore the intensity with which the team is playing. They never look like giving up before the last whistle,” said Annesh Bilas Thakur, an avid ATK fan.
Yes, it’s the camaraderie, the intensity and the bond within the team that has won over the soccer crazy city. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are a passé, the city now bears the standards with a red-white stripe. While, the management is no way condoning the aggressive mentality on the field, they also don’t want the team to go soft.
“There are no disciplinary issues within the team. But at the same time we are not here to make fiends. We are here to win a trophy,” said a source close to the team adding: “While we respect the ISL rules and guidelines, we want to win also. The Aussies were the bad boys of world cricket in the last decade of the millennium. They sledged, played hard and won hearts. We have an owner who challenged that domination. He is the Prince of Calcutta.”
“When ATK takes the field they look every bit the winged lion on their logo. The pride goes for a hunt and in a battle there is bound to be some hard knocks,” says Simon Stephens, who swears by the red-white stripes.
The steely jawed resolution not to cave in has been beaten into the side during the 45-day stint together. Sometimes, the players are becoming boisterous in their approach, agreed. But that is riding the crest of the adrenalin surge and has more to do with the heat of the moment than pre-meditated malice.
The players themselves are not advocating fouls. “It was a very hot game (meaning the Goa Fc tie). It’s normal; its football, some players fight. But we respect all the teams and all the rules of football. But life goes on even after a bad night. The game goes on. That’s most important,” said Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey, team’s ace defender.
“Would you call Liverpool’s game last season ugly? Or Would you call Bayern Munich bad boys? Hard knocks are a part of the beautiful game. We must not look too much into it. However, at our end we have asked the players to play with more caution because if we lose players because of cards it affects our game plan too,” said another source close to the club.
For now the mantra with ATK is practice hard, play harder. And it seems to be working wonderfully well.