Minerva Punjab FC: ‘Simple football’ the secret behind dream I-League campaign | football | Hindustan Times
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Minerva Punjab FC: ‘Simple football’ the secret behind dream I-League campaign

Minerva Punjab FC are at the top of the I-League standings with five games left in the season, but despite defying expectations, coach Khogen Singh says the reason behind their success has been their focus on playing a simple brand of football

football Updated: Feb 09, 2018 18:20 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Minerva Punjab FC sit at the top of the I-League standings with five games left in the season.
Minerva Punjab FC sit at the top of the I-League standings with five games left in the season.(AIFF)

The meteoric rise of Minerva Punjab FC started in 2015 when they claimed the Senior State Football Championship title in Chandigarh after beating Liberty Football Club on the final day of the season. They followed it up with a brilliant show in their maiden I-League second division season in 2015/16, and despite finishing behind Dempo in the final round, they were able to become a part of the I-League top tier through one of the two corporate entry slots.

In their debut campaign, the newly-promoted side struggled to keep up with the more established opponents in the top-flight and a ninth-place finish saw their season end in disappointment.

This season, however, has been a completely different story for the Punjab-based club. They released all their foreign signings at the start of the season and concentrated on acquiring players who suited their style of play.

The club decided to stop chasing big names. Instead, players like Chencho Gyeltshen, William Opoku and Guy Eric Dano, who were seen as being more in sync to their playing style, were roped in ahead of the new campaign. The impact was almost instantaneous as they combined with the local players to hand Minerva Punjab FC a brilliant start to the I-League with four wins and a draw from their first five games.

Khogen Singh, a former left-back for Air India and the coach of Minerva Punjab FC, broke down the team’s philosophy in really simple terms. “Our aim this season was to play simple football. We did not want to play long balls and that is why, the team concentrated on short and precise passing.” he said.

“We are focusing on fitness. Hold a game up to 60 or 70 minutes, and then take it to a definite end. They are young and that’s why they need to be given that confidence,” he added.

The coach also made it a point to mention the contribution of the club’s foreign signings during his interview and there is a very good reason behind it. Bhutan striker Chencho Gyeltshen, who was rejected by both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, has been a revelation for his team with six goals. His partnership with William Opuku at the heart of the team’s attack has been instrumental in taking Minerva Punjab FC to the top of the table.

However, when asked about his heroics this season, Chencho made it clear that the time for celebrations is not here yet. With five matches to go in the season, Minerva Punjab FC need a maximum of 10 points to secure the title and that is the only goal for Chencho at the moment.

Talking over the phone, Chencho said, “I am really happy with my performance this season. However, the season is going down to the wire and right now, I really want to win the title for my team.”