I-League Champions Dempo

Despite sitting at the top of the I-League, defending champions Dempo Sports club will not be happy with their performance in the four matches they played till now. Dempo had a solid campaign in Federation Cup but their performances in the initial matches of I-League leaves a lot to be desired.

Dempo started their I-league campaign against local rivals the Churchill Brothers. Even though Dempo went on to win this match 2-1, their performance was below par. Churchill were the better of the two sides on the day, making it difficult for Dempo to play their possession football. Much talked about transfer of the season Rohan Ricketts made his debut in this match but the former Premier League player failed to impress. A brace from Japanese veteran Ryuji Sueoka was the only positive for the Dempo in the match.

Dempo next played against Sporting Club de Goa. Inexperience of Sporting Club de Goa helped Dempo to register a easy 5-0 victory. Dempo looked a transformed unit in this match and Sporting found it difficult to penetrate their strong defense. Dempo captain Clifford Miranda scored brace in the match. Ryuji Sueoka, Anthony Pareira and Koko Sakibo scored rest the goals for defending champions.

Dempo next travelled to Gangtok where they played against the newly promoted United Sikkim Football Club. Dempo were expecting an easy game against Snow Lions but a determined performance from the hosts made it difficult for them. United Sikkim Captain Anwar Ali’ s 10th minute strike was disallowed by referee before Dempo scored a goal in first half through Koko Sakibo. After the lemon break things did not change as the hosts kept on pressing hard for a goal and  their persistence finally paid off in 59th minute as Nurudeen Salau scored the equalizer. The host continued to create problems for the Dempo who were finding it diffuclt to cope with the conditions. With the match was heading towards a draw the referee gave Dempo a somewhat controversial penalty in injury time. Ryuji Sueoka did not make any mistake in converting the spot kick. Dempo were lucky to win the match against a spirited United Sikkim.

Dempo’s next match was against the Kolkata giants Kingfisher East Bengal in the Kolkata. They had an uphill task to defeat the red and gold brigade, given the poor record Armando Colaco has against Revor James Morgan. Dempo went into this match with a lot of controversy as new recruit Rohan Rickets questioned the approach of Armando Colaco. With all odds against Dempo, the match started with the hosts enjoying a support of more than 50,000 fans. Dempo were on the back foot from the start and East Bengal found back of the net in the first half through Edeh Chidi. The referee awarded a penalty against Dempo when East Bengal captain Mehtab Hossain was brought down by the Mahesh Gawli. East Bengal kept on pressing more throughout the match but poor finishing saw them squander several chances. Sueoka was unlucky when he was brought down in the penalty area but referee did not award a penalty. As the match was coming to its end lapse in concentration in dying minutes by the East Bengal defenders saved Dempo from the defeat with Peter Carvalho scoring the equalizer.

The drama however had happened before the kick-off with new recruit Rohan Ricketts tweeting that he had been asked to lower his level in order to help his team-mates. He tweeted

My game and style of play is too advanced for my team mates and I have to bring my level down so I can adapt??? This is what I’ve been told!. I’m absolutely speechless! Had a headache just trying to comprehend such a bizarre statement!. You sign someone because they are different an(d) of a higher level and then you tell them to lower the football intellect so they can adapt! The funny thing is the so-called higher level of thinking in their eyes is actually basic football knowledge. So I do not know how to dumb myself down on the pitch! Absolutely head loss.

The immediate result of this tweet saw Rohan Ricketts being benched in an important match against East-Bengal as Dempo went in to the match with only two foreigners. He was however introduced late in the late match. Coach Armando Colaco expressed his displeasure of this statement and said

Which coach will tell a player to lower his standard? He has been told to adapt to our style of play and there’s nothing wrong in that. He should realise where he is playing rather than making these unwarranted comments.We’ll decide in a day or two. What he has done is wrong

Armando Calcao has a lot to think about !!

Dempo coach Armando Colaco will not be happy with the performance of his team apart from the match they played against the Sporting. Dempo are unable to retain the possession and are finding it difficult to stop rival attacks on the quick counter attacks. They are certainly missing their goal machine Ranti Martins upfront. Dempo SC should look to use some of their younger players in the coming league matches. The likes of Mahesh Gawli, Anthony Pereira and Climax Lawrence have not played up to their potential something which must be worrying Armando Calaco at the moment.

New foreign signings have failed to perform till now. Former Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur player Rohan Ricketts is finding it difficult to adjust in the hot Indian condition. Koko Sakibo is yet to yet mature as a striker. He will need to take more responsibility and start scoring some goals for the team. The Ghanaian defender Stephen Ofei also failed to impress Armando Colaco. He is yet to make his debut in my league and if rumors are true then he might be released by the club. Japanese veteran Ryuji Sueoka is only positive among the foreign players in the team. He has shown some brilliance in front of the goal and has led from the front.

The league has just begun and the senior players in the team look rusty. It will be a tough ask for the seniors to maintain their fitness level constantly throughout the season. Dempo SC also will be playing in the AFC Cup so they will have to rotate their players to suit the fixture congestion. The likes of Godwin Franco, Romeo Fernandez,  Shallum Pires, Joachim Abranches, Rowilson Rodriguez and few others are next generation for Dempo. These players have played in patches and have shown that they can perform well for the cause of the team. With Mahesh Gawli in the twilight of his career Shallum Pires and Rowlison Rodriguez will have to be nurtured to take the centre back position. Both of the players are regular starters for the team in Goa Pro league and have just conceded one goal in three matches.

Romeo Fernandes- The next Dempo Superstar

Joachim Abranches has been good in patches for the team and has to be more consistent if he wants to be aregular starter. With majority of the players in the midfield aging, Romeo Fernandes and Godwin Franco are certainly two players on whom Armando Colaco can depend on. The duo has been around with the team from long time now and understand well what is expected from them. All eyes will be on midfielder Aniston Fernandes and the striker Myron Fernandes. After an eight month stint with the FC Midtjylland academy in Denmark these youngsters will be raring for their I-league debut.

Dempo next will play against Shillong Lajong, ONGC and Air India. The match against Shillong Lajong, who are on a high after defeating Prayag United in last round, will be tricky one. Dempo will have to use these three fixtures to test their bench strength before they face the big boys.

It will be interesting to see when Dempo’ s luck runs out. They will face stiff competition from the likes of Prayag United, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Churchill Brothers and Pune FC but as Dempo Armando Colaco says, Dempo have been slow starters in past. The fans would hope they find their form and play like champions with the AFC Cup due to start next year where the nation expects them to put up a good show.

 Written by Guest Author Ashlesh Ajgaonkar. Follow the Author on Twitter