In a move that was largely anticipated, Dempo Sports Club announced Arthur Papas as the head coach, bringing to end all speculations surrounding the clubs’s and the Australian’s future. The announcement was an expected one and the fans across the nation had been talking about it for sometime now. This move brings together the most celebrated clubs in the subcontinent and the most sought after coach in the I-League and promises to be an exciting one.
Dempo Sports Club – A Season to Forget
Dempo Sport Club had a uncharacteristic season marred by controversies , injuries and several off field issues which saw the club finish fifth in the I-League despite being billed as an overwhelming pre-tournament favorites. The club failed to impress even in the Goan Professional League and finished the season without any trophy.
Faulty Transfer policy by the team management saw them retain most of their players, even the ageing ones and this went on to become their greatest nemesis. The likes of Debabrata Roy, Samir Naik and Mahesh Gawli were all long term absentees at some points of the season due to injuries and a makeshift defense meant Dempo conceded frequently and failed to keep a single clean sheet in their final 10 matches. 33 year old Ryuji Sueoka was the Dempo star in the early part of the season but an injury kept him out for most of the second half and Dempo lost their most impressive player in the forward line. In a nutshell, Dempo’s over-reliance on older players was a major reason of their failure.
The signing of foreign players by Dempo also left a lot to be desired. Ghanaian defender Stephen Ofei didn’t feature in any of the I-League games and was released in the winter transfer window. Colaco’s failure to sign a suitable replacement for Ranti Martins meant that Dempo played most of the season without a proper target man and often lacked the killer punch up front. As for Rohan Ricketts, the lesser said the better it is. The former Arsenal player entry into I-League was greeted by much fan-fare but he soon dragged himself and the club into controversy.
Rohan Ricketts tweeted that he had been asked by coach Armando Colcao to lower his standard of play so that he could adapt to the game in the I-League and went on to say that he was being denied first team action due to political reasons. Ricketts was dropped from the first team even as Armando preferred to play with just two foreign players in the starting eleven. Injuries to key players meant that Ricketts was given a chance in the starting eleven and the English striker impressed with his performances. However, the relationship between him and Colcao turned for the worse. The former Tottenham striker tweeted that Colcao was taking money from certain players to field them in the starting eleven and that he was faced threats to his life from the coach. Ricketts was released but the damage he caused to Colcao and the players was irreparable as they went on a win-less streak for nine matches. Faulty team selection, controversies and a below par performance meant that Armando was released following the season.
Arthur Papas – Making a Mark
Arthur Papas made an instant impact on Indian Football when the U-22 team under his tutelage performed remarkably well in the AFC U-22 qualifiers. Despite being drawn in a tough group the team showed great flexibility and adaptability as they defeated Turkmenistan and Lebanon and held UAE to a draw. Papas used his resources intelligently switching from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 formation depending upon the situation. The likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Manandeep Singh Lalrindika Ralte and Alwyn George praised him and AIFF wasted no time in appointing Papas as the new coach of Pailan Arrows.
The Arrows had a disappointing second season and were in disarray before Papas took over and an year later he changed the team completely thanks to his tactical brilliance. The possession based style caught the eye of the pundits across the nation and Arrows soon became the talking point of the league. The likes of Milan Singh, Alwyn George, Shouvik Ghosh and Holicharan Narzary flourished under him and were awarded with a call-up to the national team camp. Alwyn George in particular was a much talked about Arrows player as he matured into a player who could play as play-maker or a supporting striker behind the front two. Papas style of play involved building play from the back – a concept still alien to I-League clubs at the moment and he achieved reasonable success with it.
Papas used the depth of his squad to amazing effect and rotated his players well. Despite being inexperienced, the lads performed remarkably well playing with the big boys of the league – a lot of credit for which goes to Papas as he groomed his team not just on the field but also off it. A testament to this fact is the fact that almost all of Arrows players were in demand after the season ended. Arrow’s 2-0 win over Dempo in Dempo’s home ground convinced the Dempo management to pursue him for his signature.
The AIFF’s negligence frustrated Papas and by the end of the season he decided to quit Arrows but in process he established himself as a highly sought after coach in Indian Football. Papas was flooded with offers from several top I-League clubs among them are believed to be Pune FC, East Bengal and Dempo but in the ended he inked a 3 year deal with Dempo.
Dempo & Papas – What To Expect
Dempo is one of the most successful clubs in recent times and the coaching stint at the club provides 33 year old Papas with an opportunity to establish himself both at the national and the continental level. Dempo boast of a professional setup, something which Papas didn’t enjoy in Arrows and with the club giving him a free hand in building squad for the next season, Papas would surely be relishing at the opportunity.
As for Dempo, it marks an opportunity to freshen things at the club after 13 years of coaching under Armando Colcao. The average age of Dempo squad was on the higher side and a number of young players are expected to be signed by the club as has been indicated by the signings of Jeje, Jewel Raja and Gabriel Fernandes. Dempo squad has a number of young players like Nicolau Borges, Romeo Fernandes, Aniston Fernandes and Shallum Pires and Papas is probably the best man to groom them. Papas will no doubt bring in fresh ideas and ideologies to the club.
The Dempo-Arthur Papas combination promises an exciting time for football fans and no doubt all eyes will be on the team when the new season starts.