“We are a club who make stars.”
These were the words straight from the horse’ mouth – the Moroccan coach Karim Bencharifa, who has been with the Goan giants Salgaocar SC from two seasons, since his arrival from Mohun Bagan. Salgaocar SC were not able to defend the coveted I-League title last season as the Vasco based club finished in the sixth place, a massive thirteen points off the eventual winners and arch rivals Dempo SC. In the Kingfisher Goa Professional League, Salgaocar finished in the second place after Dempo clinched the title in the penultimate round. So in short, Salgaocar were without silverware last season. Salgaocar had a chance to make an impression at the continental stage but were clinically outdone by better teams. The Greens finished last in the group securing only one win and a draw to go with four losses. As re-iterated by the club management, it was a good learning curve for the squad as they look to embark a fresh new season.
The fans of the most widely supported club in Goa have definitely kept faith in the team and its management during the rough times last season. The club has bravely let off all his foreign recruits in the Indian Transfer window, retaining only the captain Luciano Sabrosa. TheHardTackle previews the Salgaocar season with one eye on the squad and testing its sustainability for the upcoming battles in various leagues. Here is a look at all the new faces that have joined the Salgaocar bandwagon this year, and some key players who left the Greens.
Karanjit Singh, Vinay Singh, Pawan Kumar
The India goalkeeper was cannily retained by Salgaocar SC, along with very talented Vinay Singh. Both the goalkeepers had a more than decent season with the Green Brigade and now the addition of experienced Pawan Kumar would add more maturity to the mix.
THT Verdict: These three goalkeepers have proven themselves in the I-league and in the GFA Pro League and it would be very interesting to see how Karim Bencharifa manages and use the bench strength in the custodian department.
Nicolau Colaco, Collin Abranches, Royston D’Souza, Luciano Sabrosa, Augostinho Fernandes, Karan Atwal , Biswajit Saha, Rahul Kumar, Bijoy Basfore
Salgaocar managed to retain their captain fantastic Luciano Sabrosa for the upcoming season along with the impressive lanky right back Nicolau Colaco. Collin Abranches, Royston D’sousa and Bijoy Basfore have been added to the squad after their imposing performances for Air India during the recently concluded season. Karan Atwal has also been incorporated into the defenders list after his good stint with United Sikkim last season. The void left by Ishfaq Ahmed is expected to filled in by Bijoy Basfore and Biswajit Saha.
THT Verdict: Salgaocar had conceded least number of goals among all the teams in the I-League last season. Defense has never been a problem for Salgaocar since Karim Bencharifa is at the helm, and the fans would surely be hoping that Luciano Sabrosa can marshal this new look, but very affective backline.
Karan Sawhney, Rocus Lamare, Keegan Pereira, Quinton Norman Jacobs, Randeep Singh, Cajetan Fernandes, Anthony Barbosa, Beevan D’Mello, Gilbert Oliveira, Francis Fernandes, Chhangte Malswamkima , K. Meitei, Anthony D’Souza, Brian Mascarenhas, Presley Mascarenhas, Aliston Fernandes, Roy Rodrigues, Godfrey Silva
Rocus Lamare inked a new deal with the Vasco based club as many clubs wanted to his signatures on their contract. Along with India international Lamare, Agustin, Francis Fernandes, Gilbert Oliveira, Milagres Gonsalves, Anthony Barbosa, and Clifton Dias have been retained by the club. In addition to this, the former champions managed to entice highly rated Namibian midfielder Quinton Jacobs from United Sikkim. The Mumbai lad Keegan Perreira also switched loyalties to Goa as he was inducted in the mid field list.
THT Verdict: the midfield of Salgaocar rests on the performance of some key players. With Ryuji leaving, Quinton Jacobs has big boots to fill in. Keegan had a very good season with Mumbai FC and he is a good addition to the midfield. Along with usual suspects Gilbert and Francis, Salgaocar also added some players to improve their bench as the season progresses. With too many games jam-packed in a season, bench strength is the main priority for the club and to materialize that, Salgaocar have added new players.
Abdullah Hamza Amaba , Sandesh Gadkare , Balwant Singh, Mohammad Dada Nabeel, Milagres Gonsalves, Marcus Mascarenhas, Thounaojam Dinesh Singh, Clifton Dias, Rosario Mendes
Chidi Edeh, Salgaocar’s lynchpin in the striking department, left the club to join the Lal Holud brigade. HAL striker, Abdul Hamza has been signed by the club as a direct replacement. Hamza has been plying his trade in India for a while now and he also has this uncanny knack of finding the back of the net. He had been among the goals during the last season too donning HAL jersey. Along with Hamza, Salgaocar very astutely signed Sandesh Gadkari from Air India, who was the top Indian striker last season.
THT Verdict: In addition to Balwant Singh and Milagres Gonsalves, inclusion of two proven I-League strikers will add teeth to the striking, but it would be difficult to start giving results straight away. Salgaocar might struggle in the striking department this season.
After winning their maiden I-League last to last season, Salgaocar would be looking to bounce back and that too with style. It will be very exciting to see that how master tactician Karim Bencharifa bring the best out of this relatively new squad. TheHardTackle predicts that Salgaocar will have a rough season ahead and will struggle to gain a podium finish.
Goa Premier league
Salgaocar missed out on the Kingfisher Goa premier league title last year just by a whisker. Although the club has absorbed some players in the squad just on the basis of their experience to play in the GFA league, Salgaocar do not have enough fire power to dismantle teams like Churchill Brothers, Dempo etc. All the players need to gel up well and bring their A Game for this season in order to challenge for any silverware.
Durand Cup and Federation Cup
These are two prestigious tournaments in which all the clubs want to do well as they provide a quick and a competitive acid test to get a reality check. Salgaocar are the current Federation cup champions and would be looking to defend their title against the odds. A lot will depend on how Karim Bencharifa’s lads perform in these tournaments.
There is not a single reason why Salgaocar cannot rumble a few feathers in the upcoming season. The only matter of concern is that the squad is comparatively new and almost all the foreigners who had proved themselves at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa have now left. Having said that, the history of Karim Bencharifa is not hidden from anyone. He has this knack of bringing out the best from his players. It will be very exciting to see how Karim Bencharifa moulds this side to garner results this season.