Dempo’s Armando Colaco is without doubt Indian football’s most successful coach and general secretary. After his fifth national league title in eight years — Dempo was awarded the I-League 5 trophy after their 3-0 win against United SC here on Saturday and even given a guard of honour by their rivals — Colaco, who took charge in 2000 when Dempo were in the second division, spoke to HT.
Q: How do you explain a record five league titles with Dempo?
A: Everyone at the club deserves credit for this. The secret, of course, is the togetherness in the squad. I don’t put any pressure on my players and just ask them to enjoy and take one game at a time. This attitude has done wonders for us over the years.
Q: Of the five league titles, which would you say is your favourite?
A: Winning every title has been memorable because each year it gets tougher. The first title, which we won in 2004-05, was very important because that season our striker (Cristiano) Junior died in a match (the Federation Cup final against Mohun Bagan) and all of us wanted to win the National League for him.
Q: What is your target now that you have pretty much won everything there is in Indian football?
A: It is my dream to be given the Dronacharya award. It is the highest recognition a coach can get in India and that will be a massive achievement for me. As far as Asian club competitions are concerned (Dempo are India’s most successful team in the AFC Cup and have played the Asian Champions League qualifiers), it is always a tough test because teams in Asia are improving a lot all the time but we will give our best shot next season.
Q: Won’t involvement in the AFC Cup make it difficult to retain the I-League as has been the case in recent seasons?
A: To be successful in all competitions, we need a bigger pool of players and that has become very difficult now because footballers in India are demanding a lot of money.
Q: Does that mean Dempo will have more or less the same budget the next season? And do you partly blame the Kolkata clubs for the spike in players’ salaries?
A: See, we will build the best squad possible but each player will get the money he deserves. Kolkata clubs have broken their promise because when all the clubs met (in Mumbai in March) it was decided that we wouldn’t be paying sky-high salaries. Each season they (Kolkata teams) spend almost their whole budget on player recruitment but spending money doesn’t guarantee you success on the pitch.
Q: Your star striker and the highest goalscorer for the past two seasons in the I-League Ranty Martins is heavily linked with a move to Kolkata’s United SC. Your take?
A: A club like Dempo is never over-reliant on one individual. We lost Beto last season, we coped with it. I am not saying players are not important but the club is always more important. Ranty has been a fantastic player for us and he has personally told me he won’t leave because money is not everything for him. But even if he does, we will find somebody else and move on.
Q: A number of players in your squad are nearing the end of their careers. How much of a challenge will it be for you to replace them and build a new team?
A: It won’t be easy to replace the likes of Climax (Lawrence), Mahesh (Gawli) and even Samir (Naik) has retired from international football now. But right through the youth teams to the senior setup, we play the same style of football. There is already a lot of talent in the next batch of youngsters like Romeo Fernandes (midfielder), Shallum Pires (defender) to name a few. I am confident they will make the step up.