There’s something about great teams that makes them stand out from the rest and sets them high on a perch above everyone else. One – they rarely have bad seasons and two – the bad seasons make them stronger and they come back with vengeance and hit back with a harder venom.

Dempo for most of last season played catch up with the rest of the League, then had a wonderful run where they reclaimed top spot only to let the grueling League and AFC Cup schedule fatigue them at the death. As they prepare for the new season they know its time to show where they belong and what separates them from the rest- character in adversity and the desire to be champions yet again.

Sweeping changes have been made in the Dempo dressing room. Three of their four foreigners have left the club – two of them to rival Goan clubs. Ranti Martins, top scorer of the League last season is the only foreign player who has kept faith with the Blue Brigade. Their talisman Beto has left for Churchill Brothers after more than five years with the club while midfield anchor man Ogba Kalu has left after just one season with them. Dempo were robbed of the services of their inspirational coach Armando Colaco who was with the Indian National team for the World Cup qualifiers, but assistant coach Mauricio Afonso along with Camilo Gonsalves and Mathew D’Costa have done well in pre-season conditioning.

Dempo will once again look to their inspirational
midfielder Climax Lawrence 

Summer Transfer Activities:

Anil Kumar           Striker  Viva Kerala
Joy Ferrao    Striker  Vasco SC
Koko Sakibo     Striker  Vasco SC
Savio Fernandes      Striker  Vasco SC
Brian Mascarenhas    MidfielderChurchill Brothers
Romeo Fernandes   MidfielderMargao SC
Sidroy Afonso          MidfielderSesa FA
Rowilson Rodrigues     DefenderChurchill Brothers
Selwyn Fernandes     DefenderPune FC
BetoAMFChurchill Brothers
Ogba KaluMidfielderSporting Club de Goa
Samson Fernandes       Striker  Sesa FA
Rouhollah Samieinia     DefenderNA

Squad Analysis:

Goalkeepers: Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Laxmikant Kattimani, Tyson Caiado, Luis Barreto and Reagan Juliao.

Dempo after all their goalkeeping errors last season chose to repose their faith in the same set of goalkeepers as last year. On paper though they all look good. Kattimani has established himself as the No.1 keeper for the U-23 National team and has gained vital experience with the senior national team for the World Cup qualifiers and the Caribbean Tour.  He has slowly established himself as the No.1 keeper at Dempo although Subhasish is lurking behind. With Tyson Caiado and Luis Barreto, Dempo have a more than adequate strength of shot stoppers should their first two choices of Kattimani and Subhasish get injures. They also have a young 20 year old keeper in Reagan Juliao, someone who will be used in the Goa Professional League.

Verdict: Subhasish and Kattimani are definitely more experienced now and will look to minimize their errors. Subhasish has plenty to prove and will look to regain his place in the national team once again with some good performances in the league.

Debabrata Roy, John Dias, Domnic Noronha, Selwyn Fernandes, Creson Antao, Mahesh Gawli, Samir Naik, Valeriano Rebello, Rowilson Rodrigues, Marcus Peixoto, Jessel Carneiro, Covan Lawrence, Shallum Pires, Bharat Thapa.

If Dempo lost the League last season it was because of two reasons. Firstly they were robbed of seven of their first team players for six months thanks to India’s Asia Cup camp and secondly, injuries to key defenders left them with very little cover at the back. Well, that reason seems to have been sorted out this year. They have an embarrassment of riches to guard their citadel this season.

Apart from Iranian Rouhollah Sameinia, all their defenders have been retained. In addition they have shored up the central defence by signing Rowilson Rodigues from Churchill Brothers and Selwyn Fernandes from Pune FC. Another foreign defender is reportedly also on his way to the Panjim based club, which means this year at least there should be no problem with the defense.

Last year Dempo conceded 34 goals in their league campaign, the worst among the top seven teams.  Three months into the league they were a massive 14 points behind leaders East Bengal and probably that was where they lost the league. Though they made an incredible comeback to come within a game from winning the Championship, they would look back at their defense in the first leg as the cause for letting the title slip from their grasp.

The Dempo back line picks itself, consisting of all Indian national team players. Mahesh, Rowilson, Samir and Debabrata will be the most likely pairing in majority of the games with Valeriano Rebello also fighting for a place. They would also have the choice of a foreigner in defense. John Dias, Domnic, Creson and Selwyn would be on the fringes while Covan Lawrence and the young improving Shallum Pires and Bharat Thapa will mostly be used in the Goa League.

Verdict: The gaping holes in defense looked to have been plugged this season and the back line looks solid. The arrival of a foreign defender will further strengthen it.

Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda, Godwin Franco, Peter Carvalho, Anthony Pereira, Micky Fernandes, Johnny D’Cruz, Nicolau Borges, Joe Rodrigues, Aaron Fernandes, Sidroy Afonso, Brian Mascarenhas, Mandar Rao Desai, Richard Fernandes, Romeo Fernandes, Aniston Fernandes.

There’s no denying the fact that Beto has left a gaping hole in Dempo’s midfield that will be hard to fill. Also the departure of Kalu has meant that two of Dempo’s pillars in midfield are no more. Dempo are yet to fill their foreign quota of players and will look to buy a quality midfielder to fill into Beto’s big shoes. One plus point for Dempo is that their star midfielder Anthony Pereira is back to full fitness. The India midfielder missed the whole of last season after suffering a knee injury during India’s Asia Cup preparations. Mr. Versatile, Peter Carvalho who played the most of last season on the right trying to fill up for Anthony, will return to his favored central midfield role. With old warhorses Climax Lawrence and Clifford Miranda, Dempo look to have one of the best midfields in the country.

The only problem could be fatigue with the likes of Climax, Clifford and Peter playing continuous football due to their commitments with the national team. Godwin Franco looks to be improving with every game and can more than fill up the central midfield. Micky Fernandes too can be used at the centre of the park at the centre of the park. Nicolau Borges and Joe Rodrigues will be ready to fill in the shoes of Anthony and Clifford should something happen to them.

Dempo also boasts of some exciting young players that will be used in the Goa League. Sidroy, Mandar, Aaron, Richard, Romeo, Brian and Aniston are all 20 years of age and very quickly. The future certainly looks bright for the Dempo midfield.

Verdict: A foreign player of Beto’s quality is needed in the midfield to take on the big teams. Other than that, the midfield is on par with the best in the business.

 A lot depends on Koko Sakibo, who will be
partnering Ranti Martins upfront

Ranti Martins, Koko Sakibo, Joaquim Abranches, Cliffton Gonsalves, Joy Ferrao, Savio Fernandes, Terence Fernandes, Myron Fernandes, Anil Kumar

Any team that has the highest scorer in the League will feel safe about its striking department and in Dempo its no different. Ranti Martins will once again spearhead the attack for Dempo along with Joaquim Abranches and new signings Joy Ferrao, Koko Sakibo and Anil Kumar. Koko has been a consistent scorer at Vasco and along with the young Joy Ferrao formed a deadly combination that almost took Vasco to the I-League. The highest Indian scorer in tye League last year, Anil Kumar will also don colours for Demopo this season after moving from Viva KLerala. Dempo also have the services of Cliffton gonsalves to rely on, while young Myron, Terence and Savio will mostly hone their skills in the Goa League.

Verdict: Dempo has the quality of Ranti and Koko and the youthfulness of Joy and Abranches. A deadly combination that could prove all the doubters wrong. On paper the big names are missing, but the youthfulness and the desire to score could more than make up for it.

Five Key Targets:

1. I-League: If Dempo have made a trophy their own, it is the I-League. They have won it a record four times and have never had a gap of more than two years without winning the League. Will history repeat itself this year?

2. Federation Cup: Since 2004, when Cristiano junior won them the Cup and collapsed on the ground after a collision with Subrata Paul, Dempo have never won the trophy again. They came close last year losing to Mohun Bagan in the semi finals on penalties. They will look to make amends this year as their AFC Cup spot is at stake.

3. AFC Cup: If Dempo win the Fed Cup they will make it to the group stages of the AFC Cup, a tournament where they have been India’s flag bearers for more than five years.

4. Goa League: Dempo’s large and young squad enables them to have yet another crack at winning the state league even with the absence of their stars.

5. Grooming Youngsters: With Climax Lawrence and Mahesh Gawli, two of the most consistent servents of the club, on the verge of hanging up their boots in a season or two, it will be a challenge for the club to find suitable quality performers to replace them. Hence grooming a couple of youngsters from the youth team set-up will be one of the top priorities in Armando Colaco’s check-list in this season. 

Critics have written off Dempo’s chances after the departure of their foreigners and the failure to sign any big names so far. But let all the doubting Thomases be reminded that in 2009-10 season, Dempo won the League with just two foreigners and moreover Sunil Chhetri departed to Kansa City Wizards midway through the season. If there’s one team in India that plays when the chips are down, it’s Dempo. When the going gets tough, the Blue Army gets going.