A shrewd tactician, Dempo coach Armando Colaco has also been at the helm of the Goa club since 2004. After winning his fourth national league title, he spoke to HT about the phenomenon that Dempo has been over the past six seasons. Excerpts.
Every time Dempo lost their way, how did they manage to come back?
That’s because we have stuck together during the bad times. And to be very honest, we don’t look too much into losses. We don’t indulge in blame games. We play for fun. I ask the boys to go out and play their game and enjoy themselves.
Which games made the difference in the I-League 3?
The 1-0 win against East Bengal in Kolkata (April 11) was very important as it gave us that belief that we can win the I-League. Also the 4-1 win against Mohun Bagan gave us a huge fillip. Beating clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in their own backyard is no mean task.
How much of a regret would letting Sunil Chhetri go be if you hadn’t won the -League?
None. To the players, I’m always a friend and I always push my players to play better and to avail chances to go out and gain experience. It was a great chance for Sunil. He had to go.
Chhetri’s unavailability meant extra responsibility on Ranty Martins. Still Dempo scored the most goals this season (53). How?
I think Ranty handled the responsibility very well. Our striking options had never reduced in any way. Joaquim Abranches fit the bill in Chhetri’s place.
The core of the team comprising Abhijeet Mondal, Mahesh Gawli and Beto is ageing. Do you think it needs overhauling?
Not really. They are still good for at least a couple of years. And anyway we have talented youngsters like Abranches and Peter Carvalho coming up. So that’s not an issue really.
Do you think the axis of domination in Indian football has shifted west?
Absolutely. If we hadn’t won the I-League, Churchill Brothers would have. That speaks a lot about the power we (Goa) wield right now on Indian football.
What’s the reason behind the dismal performance of Kolkata clubs?
That’s because too many people interfere in the team’s business. The officials and agents all have their own agenda. Look at me... I run everything at the club and nobody interferes. And the results speak for themselves.
Are all your players staying?
All except Abhijeet who will be going to East Bengal. He has been offered a lot of money and, frankly, he wouldn’t have got that if he had stayed here. He needs to think about his future as well. So I will let him go.
Talk us through Dempo’s youth development plans.
We have under-13, under-15 and under-17 teams. In fact, 12 players of the present team are products of the youth programme.