ATK Mohun Bagan released a statement in the media WhatsApp group stating “ATKMB has released Antonio Habas as coach for ATK Mohun Bagan.”
64-year-old Habas is the first coach that ATKMB have sacked since ATK and Mohun Bagan came to form the single club. ATKMB finished their first season in the ISL in second place, runners-up to Mumbai City FC. Habas began this season with ATKMB, by winning successively against Kerala Blasters and SC East Bengal.
However, his luck took a turn for the worse. ATKMB have gone without a win in all their last four games, which also included a 1-5 humbling at the hands of Mumbai City FC. Incidentally, this was also Habas’ heaviest in India. In the next match ATKMB was handed a 1-2 defeat by Jamshedpur FC. The damage from these two defeats were compounded by the two draws that followed them : 1-1 v Chennaiyin, and 3-3 to Bengaluru FC. At the end of the second draw, Habas was quoted as saying, “It is clear. We have lost our identity.”
In fact, ATKMB has not been having a good time at the international level either. The inter-zonal semi-final of the AFC Cup saw ATKMB lose 0-6, to Nasaf FC. This made Habas’ position even more untenable. This is the first ISL term where Habas was only allowed to use a total of four foreigners in the ISL, the same rule he had to adhere to in the encounter against Nasaf FC. The limit was six in 2014, when he won the league, and five when he won the title a second time in 2019, as well as last term.
As of now the question remains as to who will occupy the seat left vacant by Habas. The club stated that assistant Manuel Cascallana will be the interim coach for now. It will be a tough ask for anyone, filling the big shoes of Antonio Lopes Habas, with the latter being the most successful coach in the ISL. Habas has lifted the ISL trophy twice, and has one final and semi-final berth each. Travel restrictions owing to the still ongoing Corona Pandemic, and then entering into the ISL bio-bubble are two factors which will definitely add to the problems that ATKMB face in trying to replace such a personality. The club will face off against NorthEast United, on December 21.