I-League champions Churchill Brothers have taken a giant step towards retaining their I-League title by completing the signings of two Portuguese footballers Hugo Machado and Eurípedes Amoreirinha. Traditionally Churchill Brothers have always roped in quality foreigners who are new to Indian football – their scouting in particular, has been a hallmark of their success in past decade. Last season saw Akram Moghrabi and Bilal Najjarine, from Lebanon – a largely unexplored country for Indian clubs, don the Red jersey in the first half of the season and playing a crucial role in Churchill’s title triumph before departing in the winter transfer window. Churchill however found an able replacement in Balal Arezou for the remainder of the season and now have taken a big step forward with the signings of Machado and Amoreirinha.
“I personally went to Dubai to check on the qualifications and experience of the players and found them exceptionally good and we have now to see how they will perform with the team. I am confident that the two Portuguese footballers will delight the football fans in Goa as well as other parts of India with their style of play while the same time they will give solidity to the midfield and defense.” – Churchill Alemao after signing the Portuguese duo
28 year old central defender Eurípedes Amoreirinha has represented Portugal in 2007 U-21 Euro Championship and in addition has played over 30 matches for various national age group teams, scoring two goals. The defender was also an integral part of his team in the U-17 Euro Championship. The 6 feet tall defender, a product of Benfica youth system, has been signed from Portuguese first division side Vitória F.C. where he played for past two seasons . Amoreirinha played 8 matches with Benefica in the 2004/2005 season as his side clinched the league title before he was loaned to a second division club. The defender has been largely playing in the top flight of Portuguese football except for a couple of seasons where he plied his trade in Romania with CFR Cluj and UTA Arad.
Amoreirinha is expected to fill the void left by Bilal Najjarine and with experience of playing in Europe behind him , the strikers in I-League will no doubt find it tough to get past him. His knack of scoring goals will also be an added bonus for the Churchill Brothers. Churchill boast of one of the best defense in the country with the likes of Dharmaraj Ravanan and Denzil Franco in the squad and the addition of Amoreirinha to the back-four will make their defense tough to breach and the fans will keep a close watch on his partnership with Ravanan in the heart of Red Machine’s defense.
Hugo Miguel Alves Machado was signed from Iranian club Sanat Naft FC and is expected to fill the void left by the departure of Beto. Beto played a key role as an attacking midfielder creating and Machado will have huge shoes to fill in. Machado is a product of the famous Sporting Lisbon academy and has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Quaresma, Carlos Martins and Moutinho in his youth days at the academy. Machado began his senior carrer at Sporting Lisbon B team scoring 10 goals in around 100 games over 4 seasons – the sameteam where Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri failed to play a full complete match.
Machado’s experience of playing in both the first and second divisions of Portugal, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Iran will come in handy for Churchill Brothers in the I-League and even the younger players in the team will benefit from his experience. The Portuguese will have to play a key role, specially with the departure of Beto, Steven Dias and Tomba Singh – the three most experienced Churchill midfielders. He is likely to be supported by talented youngsters like Lenny Rodrigues, Bikramjit Singh and Tirthankar Sarkar among others. Machado has been among the goals wherever he has played and at Churchill his role will be to link up with Henri Antchouet to score maximum goals.
“We are very happy to join the Champion club of India and moreover to move to a place like Goa was a dream especially with the close ties between Goa and Portugal. We have heard a lot about the club and Goa and especially about the “Family” that runs the club and the passion of the Chairman Churchill Alemao.
We will do our best to help Churchill Brothers to continue to be the Champion Club of India and to win many more laurels not only in India but in Asia as well.” – Hugo Machado and Eurípedes Amoreirinha in a joint release after signing for Churchill Brothers.
With AIFF allowing to field of all four foreigners in the starting XI from the next season of the I-League, the importance of foreign players is more than ever and Churchill Brothers may have carried out a coup by these signings. Having already retained Gabonese striker Henri Antchouet, who was a standout performer last season, Churchill Brothers are now looking for an Asian player to complete their quota of four foreigners and already several high profile names are doing rounds.
Hailing from Portugal, the duo should not find it hard to settle down in Goa due to the historic links between Goa and the European nation and the fans will look up to them for an impressive performance once the season kicks off.