Dempo India’s best
(Rajeeb Mukherjee from Kozhikode)
AT THE Dempo dressing room, Roberto Silva (Beto) was drawing everybody’s attention to a piece of paper stuck on the black board. “It is time to reach out and grab your place in history,” the message read. And true to its words the team that takes pride in playing and preying together, created history when they won the inaugural I-League beating Viva Kerala 4-1 at the Corporation Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Though they had a four-goal advantage over Churchill Brothers going into the last round, Dempo were aware that a win might not be enough. In the end, they did it in style.
Edeh Chidi started it all rounding off goalkeeper P.G. Purushothaman and burying it in the far corner. Nicolau Borges tried a Chidi but was brought down by Purushothaman and Ranty Martins slotted home from the spot. Though S. Saleel pulled one back from a corner-kick, Dempo never seemed in trouble. Chidi’s second from a Silva header put the matter beyond doubt and when the Brazilian slammed home from close range late in the second half, the celebrations had already started.
In fact, their ability to stay calm under pressure was what separated Dempo from the rest. Despite losing some key players at crucial junctures, Dempo never seemed in real trouble. Having stayed together for the past four seasons, Dempo always managed to find a suitable replacement. It is also a telling statement on the team’s bench strength and for clubs who chop and change every season, Dempo’s success can be lesson is player management. Two National League titles and the I-League winners’ medal in four years speak a lot about that a system that has faith in continuity.
They dropped points but also won crucial ones against Churchill Brothers and JCT to keep their nose ahead throughout the campaign. Justifiably, stand-in coach Mauricio Afonso was a relieved man. “Kerala have been good to me. After the Santosh Trophy I managed to win the I-League here,” said the former India player who had to take over for the last seven matches after Armando Colaco got injured. “Tonight I can sleep peacefully,” he added.
Colaco, the religious man that he is, intends to take the whole squad to the Bambolim Cross, a church in Goa once they get home.
“When I was down, the players had a meeting and they said that we have to win this title for the coach. Today, I am happy for them and for Mauricio, who has done a great job,” said Colaco, who still rates the first National League title as his best. “Because that was the first one we won and also because it followed Cristiano Junior’s death. The players were mentally down but still fought till the end.”
This being the period of Lent — a Christian ritual of fasting and prayer before Easter — there will be no liquor when the party gets going this evening. But no one’s complaining. Being champions has it own high.
Teams P W D L GF-GA Pts
Dempo SC 18 10 6 2 35-13 36
Churchill Brs 18 11 3 4 40-22 36
JCT 18 9 6 3 31-14 33
Mohun Bagan 18 8 6 4 22-17 30
Mahindra Utd 18 7 7 4 24-18 28
East Bengal 18 5 4 9 17-23 19
Sporting Clube 18 4 7 7 14-24 19
Air India 18 3 8 7 10-20 17
* Viva Kerala 18 3 3 12 13-38 12
*Salgaocar 18 1 8 9 20-37 11
I-League: Their take
I appreciate the work done by the AIFF but a lot still needs to be done. There has been an improvement from the last NFL though in terms of competition and logistics. But I feel the I-League won’t go forward unless clubs try harder. Just blaming the AIFF won’t help. Clubs will make the League stronger. Just watch the English Premier League and you will know why.
Karim Bencharifa, coach Churchill Bros
The gap between teams have narrowed so much that if a so-called big team has a marginally off-day, they can be upset. This is the biggest change I noticed. And it doesn’t mean that the top teams have gone down. Rather, the weaker ones have become stronger. The quality of foreign players too has improved. And all this has contributed to the standard going up.
Manoranjan Bhattacharya, coach East Bengal.
I don’t think there was any difference between the last National Football League and the first I-League. Having said that, I also think we should give this concept more time before going into its pros and cons. The idea of a professional league is just one year old and we cannot expect a huge change in such short time.
Clifford Chukwuma, coach Sporting Club
No change. It was the same hectic schedule — play,travel,play — except of course the last three weeks which had one match per week. For some of our matches we hardly got two-three days to recover, like it was during the NFLs. There’s been no improvement in the refereeing standards either. The only positive change is that most of our players now have been signed for longer periods than the one-year deals we had earlier.
Derrick Periera, coach Mahindra United
The grounds are the same, the players haven’t changed much and neither has the standard of refereeing. At the Cooperage, it becomes difficult to control the ball. That in turn leads to the quality suffering. I think it will take another 50 years for India to improve. Perhaps you and I won’t be around to see any visible improvement in Indian football.
Carlos Pereira, coach Mohun Bagan
The AIFF is doing what I wanted it to for six years, that is expand the league to 16 teams and run the competition for six months. Over the next two seasons we should see that happen. In NFL teams got very little recovery time. If the league runs for six months, that problem will be solved.
Armando Colaco, coach Dempo SC
The intention is right. What I am not sure is whet-her the implementation has been perfect. Enough attention, I think, hasn’t been paid to infrastructure. Clubs don’t have own grounds, most don’t even have their own practice grounds either.
A. Sreedharan, coach Viva Kerala
I don’t think there was much of a difference. But it would be wrong to say there were no positives. The fixtures being decided in advance and the AIFF being able to stick to them was a huge plus.
Bimal Ghosh, coach Air India
I think nothing has changed. Clubs are far from being professional. But this was the first year and in time the changes in our club structures will become visible. Things will change with time.
Sukhwinder Singh, coach JCT
Old wine in a new bottle. What has the I-League added to this competition that wasn’t there during the NFL? While the standard of players have improved over the years, the standard of our football fields have gone down.
Savio Medeira, coach Salgaocar
At a glance
Edeh Chidi (Dempo, 24.11.07) vs Salgaocar (scored in the 4th minute)
Roberto Silva (Dempo, 23.2.08) vs viva Kerala (scored in the 80th minute)
Okolie Odafa (Churchill Bros) 22 goals
Total No. of goals 226
l Eduardo Escobar (JCT) vs East Bengal (30.11.07, Kol)
l Okolie Odafa (CB) vs East Bengal (13.12.07, Goa)
l Felix Chimaokwu (Sal) vs Mohun Bagan (22.12.07, Goa)
l Okolie Odafa (CB) vs Salgaocar (31.12.07, Goa)
l Ranty Martins (Dem) vs Sporting Clube (13.01.08, Goa)
l Okolie Odafa (CB) vs Mahindra United (14.01.08, Goa)
Biggest wins (5 or more goals)
l 29.11.07, Mumbai: Churchill Bros 5 (Mboyo Iyomi 12, 89; Khantang Paite 20; Okolie Odafa 37; Reisangmi Vashum 45) Mahindra United 1 (Yakubu Yusif 67)
l 23.12.07, Goa: Churchill Brothers 5 (Mboyo Iyomi 10,75; Robert Lalthalma 62; Okolie Odafa 66, 90+4) Viva Kerala 0
l 31.12.07, Goa: Salgaocar 1 (Felix Chimaokwu 40) Churchill Brothers 5 (Okolie Odafa 42,80,85,86; Rowilson Rodrigues 79)
Most goals in a match
9 (Salgaocar 4-5 Mohun Bagan, 22.12.07, Goa)
Viva Kerala 1 (S. Shaleel 34) Dempo 4 (Chidi 27, 44; Ranty 30-pen; Silva 86); East Bengal 1 (Nabi 56) Sporting Clube 1 (J. Pereira 21); JCT 4 (S. Chetri 26, 43; Escobar 37, 47) Salgaocar 0; Mahindra 0 Mohun Bagan 0; Churchill Bros 3 (Odafe 30, 59; Raju 51) Air-India 0.
Here, winning isn’t the only thing
I-League champion coach says one-year contracts don’t work
IT WAS the all whites of Dempo that got a young Armando Colaco hooked on to football. “They would come for training at the Don Bosco school ground and I would wonder when I will get a chance to play for them,” Colaco said. A lawyer with an MBA degree and having worked in the shipping industry for a while, it was football that he would always come back to. Now you know why this 54-year-old defied doctor’s orders — he has undergone an operation on his right knee which he injured in an accident last month — and limped to Kozhikode. After winning the first I-League, the Dempo spoke to HT . Excerpts.
What is the recipe for Dempo’s recent success?
Warmth and affection. Here winning is not the only thing, our mantra is to play good football. And thankfully, we have a chairman who gives us a free hand and doesn’t mind the odd reversal. Dempo is like one big family where people always help each other. We have a good coaching staff and a disciplined squad. What more can one ask?
Your position as both coach and secretary of the club is enviable. Do you agree?
To some extent yes. I get to do what I want, like getting the right kind of players. But it also involves lot of work. Then again most teams go on changing coaches and if affects the rhythm.
Keeping the same set of players for some years now has had its benefits.
We never go for one-year contracts. It’s difficult to judge a player, he needs time. That’s why we offer three-year contracts. This helps the players to know each other and work as a unit. We have been rocked by injuries but look at those who came in. Players like Nicolau (Borges), Clifton (Gonsalves), Johnny (d’Cruz), Cresson (Antao) have stepped up and delivered.
You are known to be a religious man.
Earlier when I would lose a match, I would return home and cry. My wife (Juliana) and daughter (Genevieve) would comfort me. Over time I realised that success and failure are parts of life. In this I have been helped by God. I always keep a rosary in my pocket when we are playing and I pray to God to take care of my team. It has helped me to stay calm.
Despite being one of the most successful domestic coaches, you were never offered the national team.
Maybe they think I am not fit. But I won’t ask for the job. And now I am much too involved with Dempo. I got a very good offer from Pune FC but I couldn’t go. I belong to Dempo and what I am today is because of the players.
Churchill so near, yet so far
(Gordon D'Costa from Margao)
CHURCHILL BROTHERS left it too late and despite a 3-0 victory against Air India here on Saturday finished second best because of an inferior goal difference. Even though he insisted it was job well done, coach Karim Bencharifa couldn't help mentioning that they were so near to winning the title. "I am not disappointed, but I think we could have still done better," he said. "With Dempo leading 3-1 at half-time, we needed to score eight goals..."
Churchill, whose second-place finish fetched them a cheque of Rs 28 lakh, managed two and even if they hadn't missed three clear chances, it wouldn't have been enough. However, Bencherifa was full of praise for his players. "We lost the title today, but it's good for Indian football, who are the bigger winners," he said referring to the seven Churchill players who have been called for the national camp.
PTI adds: In Ludhiana, JCT ended their campaign in style with a 4-0 rout of Salgaocar and finish third and pocket Rs 20 lakh. Sunil Chhetri and Brazilian star Eduardo Escobar pumped in three goals to finish it as a contest by the 43rd minute. Two minutes into the second half, Escobar scored again for his 14th goal of the competition, second behind Okolie Odafa who netted two of Churchill's goals.