From the dead they rose to take the final qualifying spot in the second division and as Sporting Clube de Goa prepare for their second innings in the I-League, after a years hiatus, they know they can ill afford to commit mistakes of the past- a bad start to the League. One of the major reasons of their relegation in the 2009-10 season was their bad start to the League where they were languishing at the bottom of the table till mid season and though they performed remarkably well towards the end of that season, it was not enough for them to escape relegation.
But two years have passed now, where they have gained valuable experience. A year in the lower league has probably made them crave for the big league even more and realize the importance of playing in the top tier of Indian football. Sporting’s qualification to the I-League has meant that Ekendra Singh has his second stint with the club due to the Club Licensing criteria (Head coach has to be a mandatory A License coach). Alex Alvares, who guided Sporting back to the top flight will continue in his capacity of Technical Director along with Pascoal Pereira (Asst. Coach) and Angelo Albuquerque (Manager), who have been with Sporting since its inception.
Sporting have started their season on a high beating Dempo Sports Club to win the GFA Super Cup. They looked in ominous form in both their games against Salgaocar Sports Club and Dempo Sports Club. Their defender Keita Boubacar was their standout performer in defense while young left half Jovel Martins looks a sure shot candidate for the Young Player of the Year award come the end of the season. The squad is young but their youthfulness and fearless play could more than give their big rivals a run for their money.
Ashok Singh (Goalkeeper; Ar-Hima, Shillong), Milagrio Madeira (Goalkeeper; Vasco S.C), Prajot Naik (Defender; Vasco S.C), Warun Deep (Defender; Churchill Brothers), K. Reagan Singh (Defender; NISA, Manipur), Mohammed Ali (Defender; Calangute Association, Goa), Ogba Kalu (Midfielder; Dempo Sports Club), Nickson Castanha (Midfielder; Wired Leisure, Goa), Gabriel Fernandes (Striker; Sesa F.A, Goa), Dawson Fernandes (Striker; Salgaocar S.C), James Moga (Striker; Muktijodha Sangsad, Bangladesh).
Felix D’Souza (Goalkeeper; Churchill Brothers), Steven Fernandes (Midfielder; Sesa F.A), Agnelo Colac (Midfielder; Vasco S.C), Elvino Fernandes (Midfielder; Vasco S.C), Bibiano Fernandes (Midfielder; Vasco S.C), Mario Mascarenhas (Striker; St. Cruz Club of Cavelossim, Goa), Daison Cardozo (Striker; St. Cruz Club of Cavelossim, Goa).
Let’s now take a look at the Flaming Oranje squad for 2011-12 season.
Goalkeepers: Gerard D’Mello, Milagrio Medeira, Ashok Singh
Following the departure of their long serving goalkeeper Felix D’Souza, Sporting have signed a couple of shot stoppers. Milagrio Medeira has been signed from Vasco S.C, while Ashok Singh has made the journey from Ar-Hima. Ashok Singh must have definitely caught the eyes of Sporting’s spotters after Ar-Hima put in a brilliant performance against Sporting in the second division I-League. Gerrard D’Mello has finally been promoted after many years in the shadow of Felix and going by early form he looks the goalkeeper to watch out for. Gerrard was brilliant in the GFA Super Cup saving penalties in the shootouts against Salgaocar and Dempo Sports Club. He is tall, has a good reach and more importantly is able to read the direction of the ball. Milagrio Medeira too had a good season for Vasco last year where they missed out on qualification by a whisker.
THT Verdict: The plus point for Sporting is that the all these goalkeepers are young and will probably serve them for a long time to come.
Defenders: Fulgancio Cardozo, Matthew Gonsalves, Samananda Singh, Keita Boubacar, Prajot Naik, Rojen Singh, Warun Deep, Rovan Pereir, Boboi Singh, K. Reagan Singh, Michael Faleiro, Joyner Lourenco, Mohammad Ali.
No prizes for guessing who Sporting will rely on most to plug their holes. Keita Boubacar has been Sporting’s best player in last years Second Division League and was brilliant in the two Super Cup games this season. He along with Boboi Singh make a good partnership in the centre of defence. They also have the likes of Warun Deep and Mathew Gonsalves to choose from in central midfield. In Samananda Singh you have quality at right back. The Manipuri can defend as well as overlap with ease. Prajot Naik and Fulgancio Cardozo both signed from Vasco Sports Club can play on either flanks in defense while Joyner lourenco and Mohammad Ali are guys for the future. On paper, a good looking defense although they could do with another foreign signing or an established defender.
THT Verdict: The defense looks a bit weak but then Sporting have never prided themselves on being a defensive game. They have remained faithful to the beautiful attacking style of football. However a foreign defender could make their defense more than adequate.
Midfielders: Adil Khan, Freiman Peixoto, Jovel Martins, Niroshan Mani, Bisheshwor Singh, Mackroy peixoto, Anthony D’Souza, Joseph Pereira, Rowlin Borges, Wilton Gomes, Pedro Gonsalves, Ogba Kalu, Nickson Castanha.
Sporting have always laid emphasis on the midfield and strike force and its no different this year. They have one of the most exciting midfield’s in the country- a mixture of talented youth who are fearless as evident by their recent performances. Jovel Martins is one of the finds for Sporting- young, energetic and can dribble with ease and take on defenders, something we have not seen too often in Indian football. Adil Khan is slowly but surely developing into one of the best central midfielders this season and has probably already caught the eye of many people. This SESA F.A pupil has improved by leaps and bounds since last season. He even outshone big signing, Ogba Kalu in Sporting’s two games this season. His passing was immaculate and vision exemplary. He is still young and make no mistake, at the rate he is improving, Goa will definitely have found the new Climax Lawrence. He along with Kalu have formed a brilliant partnership in the middle of the park. Freiman Peixoto on the right is more than a handful and more importantly he can play at right back when needed. Old warhorse Joseph Pereira is still recovering from knee surgery and when he returns Sporting will more than have a formidable midfield. Bisheshwor Singh has also been with the Flaming Oranje for many years now and knows their style of play while Niroshan Mani who missed the most of last season through injury is raring to go this season. Pedro Gonsalves, Nickson Castanha and Rowlin Borges are all U-20 players and will mostly be used in the Goa League.
THT Verdict: Definitely a very strong midfield and has loads of potential. The most exciting midfield in the country on account of its unknown factor. They could surprise the best in the business.
Strikers: Avelino Fernandes, Pritam Singh, Gabriel fernandes, Dawson Fernandes, Valzino Fernandes, Victorino Fernandes, James Moga, Stephen Barreto
James Moga is the big buy in attack for Sporting Clube de Goa. The South Sudanese striker was the highest scorer in the Bangladesh League last season playing for Muktijodha Sangsad. Critics should better beware as this was the same club and League that Odfafa Okolie played for, before becoming a star in India. Victorino Fernandes was used in both the games this season and looks quick and has a good touch on the ball. The signing of young Dawson Fernandes from Salgaocar has given them plenty of options. Dawson, if one may recollect was sent to Portugal for training by the Goa FA and looks an exciting prospect. However the over reliability on James Moga could be an issue. If he gets injured there would be no one to rely on as the rest of the strikers are still on the learning curve. However Sporting still have an option of an Asian player and will in all probability look for a striker.James Moga is the key man and will have to get the goals for the Flaming Oranje. Young Victorno Fernandes and Dawson Fernandes have plenty to play for and that could prove to be a great motivation for them to perform.
THT Verdict: There’s and over-reliance on their lone foreigner but there’s still time to make a buy for Sporting.
Three Key targets
Goa League: Sporting were runners up last time round and will look to go one step better this season. Their youngsters could make the difference.
Federation Cup: After the 2005 and 2006 season where they lost heartbreakingly in extra time to Mahindra and on penalties to Mohun Bagan, Sporting have never reached the finals of the Federation Cup. This could be the year when they set the record straight.
I-League: Sporting are wiser now after the debacle two years back and will look not to repeat their mistakes. They need to take each game as it comes and assesses the situation after every game. Who knows, they may be fighting for the title come the end of the season.
The era of Dudu Omagbhemi and Edeh Chidi may have gone but a new era is dawning for Sporting Clube de Goa. They have exciting youngsters and unknown commodities who are waiting in the wings to spring a surprise, For the sake of the Flaming Oranje faithful one hopes they come firing on all cylinders.