The Dudu Omaghbemi era for the Flaming Oranje may well and truly be over but a new breed of youngsters have emerged who swear by the Oranje way of football. Ever since 2005, when Sporting Clube de Goa became a household name and they reached agonizingly close to winning the 2004-05 I-League and the Federation Cup, Sporting Clube de Goa have found it difficult to replicate the success that made Dudu and Edeh Chidi the most feared attack in Indian football. The Clifford Chukwuma coached side was then at the top of their game reaching the 2005 and 2006 Federation Cup final and heartbreakingly losing the 2004-05 title to Dempo Sports Club on the last day of the season.
But after suffering relegation two years back and then re-qualifying for the I-League, the Peter Vaz owned side have been slowly but steadily re-creating a niche for themselves in Indian football- that of a fearless young side blended with surprise foreigners.
Coach Ekendra Singh who guided Sporting Clube de Goa to a respectable eighth place finish in the I-League last year will once again guide the fortunes of the Flaming Oranje this season along with Technical Director Alex Alvares.
Transfers for the 2012-13 Season
Goalkeepers: Gerard Dmello, Ashok Singh, Agnelo Gomes, Saurav Chakraborthy, Anil Hansdah
In the absence of Felix D’Souza, Gerrard D’Mello did a great job last year, starting , most of the I-League games. The young ‘keeper showed tremendous composure on many occasions and pulled off smart saves. He, along with Ashok Singh, will be the top two keepers for Sporting this year. Agnelo Gomes, Anil Hansdah and Sourav Chakraborthy will be mainly used in the Goa League and may be drafted into the senior team in case of injury to the top two keepers.
Verdict: There is continuity for Sporting’s keepers and they will be familiar with their back four which could result in a much better performance this season.
Defenders: Mathew Gonsalves, Samananda Singh, Keita Boubacar, Rojen Singh, Keenan Almeida, Rovan Pereira, Boboi Singh, Joyner Lourenco, Mohammad Ali, Joseph Clement, Clayton Dias, Charles Cardozo.
Sporting’s biggest worry last season was their leaky defense which conceded 43 goals in the I-League, the fifth worst defensive record. They haven’t done much to strengthen the defense which could be a cause for concern though they have retained most of their defenders from last season. The fact that the same set of defenders will play this time round and they will be more experienced will no doubt be favorable to them. However, they may find it difficult against the big teams. Keita Boubacar was their standout performer in defense last year and will once again have to shoulder the majority of the defensive duties this year. The experienced Mathew Gonsalves and captain Samananda Singh will also have a key role to play in defense. They also have some exciting youngsters to watch out for in the form of Rovan Pereira, Joyner Lourenco and Mohammad Ali who will be given an extended run in the Goa League.
Verdict: The same set of defenders like last season that leaked 43 goals in the I-League could be a cause for concern. However there is no reason why they shouldn’t improve from the experience of last year.
Midfielders: Freiman Peixoto, Ogba Kalu, Jovel Martins, Niroshan Mani, Pratesh Shirodkar, Biseshwor Singh, Mackroy Peixoto, Valerio Rodrigues, Joseph Pereira, Rowlin Borges, Velito Cruz, Adil Khan, Mario Lobo, Lesten Martins, Pedro Gonsalves, Amandeep Singh, Valencio Estrocio.
The biggest shot in the arm for the Sporting midfield would be the fact that they have retained the services of their midfield mainstay Ogba Kalu, which in itself could be counted as a new signing. Kalu since moving from Dempo Sports Club has been a lynchpin in the Sporting half line along with Adil Khan, breaking down attacks as well as moving forward to contribute in attack. The Sporting midfield looks young and exciting this season. Young Rowlin Borges, more of a Lenny Rodrigues mould, will be one of the young players to watch out for this year. Adil Khan will partner Ogba Kalu in the center of the park although the India midfielder is very versatile and can play in any position. Freiman Peixoto, Bisheshwor Singh Joseph Pereira, Jovel Martins would be the other players fighting for a place in the midfield while promising youngsters like Velito Cruz, Mario Lobo, Niroshan Mani and Pratesh Shirodkar would be waiting on the sidelines.
Verdict: A great blend of youth and experience. Some of the younger players like Rowlin Borges and Jovel Martins have already made a mark in the I-League last season and will look to improve their performance this year. Together with Ogba Kalu- their driving force in midfield- they could give any team a run for their money.
Forwards: Dawson Fernandes, Pritam Singh, Vikhram Singh, Pandhari Chopdekar, Victorino Fernandes, Stephen Barreto, Xavier Dias, Bong Bertrand.
The loss of Sudanese striker James Moga who scored 15 goals for Flaming Oranje last season will definitely leave a huge void. Cameroonian Bong Bertrand would be expected to fill the huge scoring boots of Moga but only time will tell whether he would do that with ease. Young Victorino Fernandes will look to start the season from where he left off last year- leaving defenders gasping for breath with his accelerating runs. Pritam Singh made his I-League debut last season and will look to improve his game by a few notches together with the young and exciting Dawson Fernandes, who scored two goals last season against Chirag Kerala to win the Man of The Match award. New sgning Pandhari Chopdekar from Dempo Juniors will look to make a mark in the Goa League and hopefully break his way into I-League contention.
Verdict: Bong Bertrand could be the glue that binds the strikers together and does a James Moga for Sporting this season. With Victorino Fernandes, Stephen Barreto, Pritam Singh and Dawson Fernandes, already making a mark last season, the future looks bright for the strike force of the Flaming Oranje. The experience and the over reliance on Bertrand however could be a problem.
I-League: Sporting had a great start to the League last year but then fell off the pace once the season got into its groove. They would target a top five finish this season and would like to put in some more consistent performances.
Federation Cup: Since reaching the finals in 2006, Sporting have never been on that stage again. They would love to do it this season in Siliguri and prove a point to their detractors.
Goa League: After establishing the Goa League as a hotbed to try out their young talent, Flaming Oranje will again this year follow the same policy. Players like Dawson Fernandes, Victorino Fernandes and Pritam Singh have all become regulars in the Goa League-honing their skills for the bigger stage. Sporting will once again rely on youngsters to play in the local league irrespective of whether it fetches them the title.
Another exciting new season awaits the Flaming Oranje and their supporters. For the neutrals though watching Sporting could be like a playing a treasure hunt- waiting to see which of their huge army of young players would set the ground on fire this season and emerge as a jewel. Rob Baan and Wim Koevermans have time and again stressed that they need newer players and a larger pool to choose from. Well you know now which team the two Dutch coaches would be watching closely this season. Who knows, the orange jersey may just unearth India’s next superstar.