Mahmoud Al Amna officially parted ways with East Bengal on December 10 after spending one and a half seasons at the Kolkata club.
The former Syrian international had to leave the club mid-season due to a back injury which he suffered during the club’s pre-season training in Malaysia earlier this season.
Amna did not take part in any of the I-League 2018-19 matches since the beginning and the club ultimately decided to release the player on mutual consent.
It took Amna only a couple of months to become a fan favourite at East Bengal last season. His impressive show in the Calcutta Football League (CFL) 2017 helped the Kolkata club to lift the title for the eighth consecutive season.
Amna thereafter performed consistently for the club and became a household name among the club loyalists. The player also loved the club dearly and wants them to succeed in the I-League.
In a chat with Goal, the former Syrian international midfielder spoke about his time at East Bengal.
How difficult was it for you to leave East Bengal?
It was not easy for me to leave the club. All the fans loved, I loved them too so it was never easy. But this is football, this happens in life. This can happen in professional football.
Do you think playing in the Calcutta Football League affected your fitness this season?
Surely it is a problem when you play in such grounds. Also, we had to play 10 matches in 45 days. It is not easy to play so many matches in such a short time in these kinds of grounds. After finishing the CFL, we did not have any break. Immediately from the next day, we started under the Spanish coach (Alejandro Menendez). This was a problem. Alejandro also had to start from zero. We had to do pre-season again. It is not easy; a minimum four or five day’s gap was needed after the CFL to recover and to come out afresh.
What kind of change did Quess Corp bring in at East Bengal?
There is a lot of difference. Quess East Bengal is much more professional. There is a big change in mentality. I saw a lot of difference this season from last year.
Did you feel bad when East Bengal sacked Khalid Jamil after just one season?
I am a professional player and I respect the club’s decision. But if you ask me personally I wanted Khalid Jamil to continue not because he is a friend but he is a very good coach. We played very well last season. If we had won the last two matches in the I-League, we would have been champions. Then in Super Cup, we defeated ISL teams to reach the final. That is not easy. But yes it was the club’s decision so I respect it.
What is your opinion about East Bengal’s new Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez?
Alejandro is a high profile coach, he has a great CV but not every time good CV can get you success everywhere. He has come here with a different mentality. He is from Europe and has European style and mentality. It is not easy to work in Indian football. You must be clever enough to see what is better in Indian football. If he wants to be successful, he has to be a little flexible.
In the first six matches of the I-League our team did not play very well and did not get good results. Maybe it will take some time. But I hope in future we will see good football and a good result for the club.
Explain the pressure of playing in Kolkata? Do you think the new foreigners coming in have to deal with extreme pressure?
It is not easy to play here. Especially the media, not all but some media, they criticise too much. Also, there is the pressure of winning each and every game. East Bengal has of course not won the league for a long time so the pressure is normal. Overall it is not at all easy to perform in Kolkata. But if you are a good coach or a good player, you must take that challenge to perform.
I don’t think the new foreigners have a lot of pressure. When you are new here, you don’t know the pressure and the expectations of fans. You don’t know about the intensity of the derby. I don’t think it is a pressure situation for the new foreign players.
On East Bengal and Mohun Bagan playing the ISL
I think both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal must play in ISL. I-League is ok but ISL is bigger. ISL have all the media coverage, the good stadiums and infrastructures. Both the clubs have a great legacy, Kolkata is the hub of football in India so I think they should play ISL. It is a big league here in India.