Pune Football Club owned by the Piramal’s is one of the most professionally managed soccer clubs in India. A top-3 finish in their maiden I-League appearance is a testimony to this fact. Pune FC being the first professional club based out of Pune have their ‘Home’ at the magnificent Balewadi Sports Complex. The 2010-11 season would be their only fourth season into existence but for the football fanatic Punekar, it feels as if its been here for ages. Such has been the impact !
The Ashok Piramal Group have made sure that ‘The Reds’ do not merely become just another socio responsibility endeavor . With a dedicated Youth Department Program under SAI coach Ranjan Chowdhry, focus is on developing a strong fan base and the PFC marketing team is making every possible effort to ensure this objective. The launch of innovative ideas like the PFC TV, the first of it’s kind in India. They are also managing a regularly updated website of their own and a neat ticketing system for I-League matches which also includes the provision to purchase season tickets. Hence it does not come as a surprise that the average attendance for Pune FC’s home games is around 5,000 and touches close to 15,000 on Super Sunday’s !
Interestingly enough, Pune is not known for being a Football hub in India. Its counter part and arch rivals in the state of Maharastra is the flamboyant city of Mumbai, which has more than often stolen the limelight. With Mahindra United being dissembled, the power now shifts from Cooperage to Balewadi. For the first time ever, Pune also hosted the National Football Team camp as well as three International Friendlies recently. There are more than 100 registered football clubs in Pune city area alone, out of which clubs like Deccan XI and Chetak FC are on the verge of being run professionally and participate regularly in the 2nd Division play-offs. With Kolhapur , the third city from the state to host I-League matches for ONGC , Mumbai FC and Air India , being just 3 hrs drive on the magnificent NH-4 from Pune to Kolhapur , its going to be a feast of football in the Western Ghats of India and the young football fanatics from Pune and Kolhapur are sure to embrace it with passion and pride.
With Puneite Sandesh Gadkari as their fourth choice striker and another local lad Paresh Shiwalkar coming back to Pune from ”The Cooperage’, Pune FC now have a good local flavor to their squad this season much to the likings of the fans. Mandjou Keita, who signed from Portland Timbers, would combine well to make a formidable strike force with the in form Edmar Figuera, allowing Izumi Arata to just sit back a bit behind the forward line which is expected to work wonders for Pune FC.
The midfield does look a bit weak after the exit of Sergey Tokov, Godwin Franco and Djidjia Douhou Pierre; but with veteran Ajayan coming in from Mahindra and the ever reliable Venkatesh as the creative force in the midfiled, it would be interesting to see how it all shapes up. The PFC defense was the strongest department in the last I-League edition, but with Chikha Wali’s transfer to Chirag Utd and Subrata Paul not being available till mid-Jan, it’s going to be some task for Derrick Perriera’s back line to hold fort. Othallo Taiba , Caitano Costa , Selwyn Fernandes and Lamine Tamba are expected to support custodian Narshimhan Balaji, who has been with club right from its inception .
Pune FC finished the previous edition of the National league with a bang in May. Derrick Perriera’s boys managed to surprise India’s footballing fraternity with their performances and the scenes at PFC’s last Home match in front of an over enthusiastic crowd has spurred everyone at the club and the fans are eagerly looking forward to the next season .
Pune FC have managed to put a decent show in the Federation Cup and Durand Cup 2010, but missed out on qualifying to the knock out stages as on both occasions PFC were placed with top Kolkata teams like Kingfisher East Bengal and Chirag United in the group stage, who were the eventual Champions; but they have managed victories over other Mumbai teams in Pre-Season friendlies. A top 5 finish was what Derrick Perriera had assured last time around, when staying in the I-league is what the owners had in mind. The expectations were moderate and a lot more was achieved. The expectations are high now. The second season in India’s top division football could be a bit tricky for Pune FC. They would look to start their campaign as it ended in May.
Major PFC Signings and Transfers for the 2010-11 Season
1. Mandjou Keita From Portland Timbers |
2. Lamine Tamba From Mah. Utd. |
3. Krishnan Ajayan From Mah. Utd. |
4. Paresh Shiwalkar From Mah. Utd. |
5. Reisang Pemmi Kasomwoshi From Assam SEB |
1. Chikha Wali to Chirag Utd. |
2. Sergey Tokov to Chirag Utd. |
3. Goodwin Franco to Dempo |
4. Jeje Lalpeklua loaned to AIFF XI |
5. Rozama loaned to AIFF XI |
6. Djidjia Douhou Pierre Free Agent
~ Amod D Kulkarni