Five time I-League champions Dempo Sports Club had a below par 2012/13 season as the Goan giants uncharacteristically finished without a single trophy in their cabinet. The season was marred by controversies, injuries and several off-field issues which saw the club finish fifth in the table despite reaching the finals of Federation Cup at the start of the season. Following the season, long serving coach Armando Colaco was released along with all foreign players. It was a busy transfer period for the club as they roped in Arthur Papas in a largely anticipated transfer deal while several players on the wrong side of 30 were also released. As the new season dawns, there is a renewed hunger and freshness in the club and the Dempo fans are hoping that the club will bounce back from the disappointment of the last season.
GoalKeeper: Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Laxmikant Kattimani, Tyson Caiado, Shilton Fernandes
Subhasish Roy Chowdhury has been Dempo’s first choice keeper for sometime now and the 27 year old is once again expected to start under the bar. Subhasish has been a regular in the national team though he has played second fiddle to Karanjit Singh and Subrata Paul. The six feet tall goalkeeper has fast reflexes and bailed Dempo out of trouble several times last season and will be expected to do the same this season. He will be assisted by 24 year old Laxmikant Kattimani who last represented in the India U-23 in the Pre-Olympic qualifiers and the 2009 SAFF Cup. Measuring around 6 feet, Kattimani provides a solid backup to Subhasish and the healthy competition between the two augurs well for Dempo. Kattimani will be keen to impress Papas and get more playing time in whatever opportunities he gets.
Tyson Caiado and youngster Shilton Fernandes are the other two goalkeepers in the team though the duo are likely to be restricted to action in the Goa Pro League.
Defence : Debabrata Roy, Jessel Carneiro, Shallum Pires, Samir Naik, Mahesh Gawli, Creson Antao, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Simon Colosimo, Shinnosuke Honda
The back-four was a major worry for Dempo last season as Debabrata Roy, Samir Naik and Mahesh Gawli were sidelined at some point of the season owing to injuries and a vulnerable make-shift defense had to be fielded and it lacked pace. Hence it came as no surprise that former Australian defender Simon Colosimo became the first signing after the appointment of Arthur Papas. The 34 year old has 25 caps to his name and is expected to lead from the front. Highly rated lanky defender Prathamesh Maulingkar, who played under Papas last season, is another player to watch out for and either him or Creson Antao is expected to partner Colosimo in the heart of Dempo defense. Veteran Mahesh Gawli , who is recovering from an injury is another option that Papas can exercise.
Debabrata Roy is a sure starter at the left-back spot and the I-League veteran will look to contribute offensively as well while either Sameer Naik or Shallum Pires is expected to start at the right back spot. Jessel Carneiro is the other defender in the team who can play as a left back. After a shaky start in the first couple of matches in the Goa Pro League, the Dempo defense lead by Simon Colosimo has settled nicely. However a knock to Antao, forced Dempo to sign their fourth foreign player – Japanese defender Shinnosuke Honda, The 23 year old plays as a central defender and comes in with the experience of having played in the J-League. Honda can also play as a defensive midfielder.
Midfield : Clifford Miranda, Mandar Rao Dessai, Gabriel Fernandes, Romeo Fernandes, Jewel Raja, Roberto Mendes Silva, Peter Carvalho, Godwin Franco, Aniston Fernandes
The noticeable departures from the Dempo midfield include Climax Lawrence, Anthony Pereira and Joaquim Abranches. Despite the departure of the the experienced campaigners, Dempo have made some smart signings and the midfield looks quite strong. Roberto Mendes Silva aka Beto has returned to Dempo after spending two seasons at Churchill Brothers and is expected to lead the Dempo midfield once again. Despite his age, Beto is one of the best midfielders in the I-League and his vision and creativity in the heart of Dempo midfield will be crucial to the club’s fortunes. Peter Cavalho was one of the most consistent Dempo performers last season and the central midfielder played all over the ground as a right back, right midfielder and even as a central defender.
Godwin Franco really came of age in the last season and will be looking to continue his impressive form this season. Godwin is expected to get more playing time after the departure of Climax Lawrence. After a rather disappointing season with Mohun Bagan last season, highly rated Jewel Raja will look to impress at Dempo under the tutelage of Arthur Papas. The presence of Jewel Raja and Godwin Franco gives Papas options in the midfield as in contrast to Beto and Carvalho, both are young and can trouble the opposition with their speed. Young Aniston Fernandes is another option for the central midfielder spot.
On the wings, Clifford Miranda is a likely starter in left wing. Despite the emergence of Vineeth and Ralte, Miranda remains the best left midfielder in the nation. Miranda, the Dempo skipper of last season, is known for his pin-point delivery from set pieces but can also cut in from the left flank and score crucial goals. Youngster Mandar Rao Dessai is the other option for the left flank. 21 year old Romeo Fernandes, who played under Papas at the AFC U-22 qualifiers, and Gabriel Fernandes, who has been roped in from Mumbai FC after an impressive season with the Mumbai based club, are the two quite able options for the right flank. Romeo infact has already made a mark this season notching up assists and goals in the ongoing Goa Pro League.
Forwards : Joy Ferrao, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Billy Mehmet, Myron Fernandes
A misfiring forward line was another chief reason why Dempo struggled last season. The club never recruited any replacement for Ranty Martins and often played without a recognized striker after Koko Sakibo got injured. Arthur Papas has however roped in able strikers in form of Jeje and Billy Mehmet. Mehmet, a product of West Ham academy comes into the I-League after having a made a name for himself in the Scottish Premier League and the A-League. Mehmet has already settled well even scoring in the Goa League. Jeje is one of the best strikers in the country at the moment and after a injury prone last season, he will be keen to develop himself into a better player under Papas. It is however the highly rated Myron Fernandes, who has made the waves so far in the Goa-League for Dempo. Myron was the architect of Dempo’s wins over SESA and Margao, notching up three goals and a couple of assists. Myron has been among the news for quite sometime now and it seems this season he will cement his place in the senior Dempo team. Joy Ferrao is the fourth forward in the Dempo team
When Dempo chairman Mr. Srinivas Dempo was looking for a new coach last season, Arthur Papas floored Mr. Dempo with his tactical acumen as his Arrows side defeated Dempo 2-0 in their own backyard. After some discussions, post the season , Arthur Papas signed a three year contract with Dempo in a deal which promises to be an exciting one. Papas is a brilliant team manager and is well versed with the Indian conditions. With Dempo squad brimming with a number of exciting youngsters, Papas is the ideal man to lead them though it remains to be seen how he copes with the pressure of winning trophies at Dempo. While his stint at Arrows was about molding the young players, the new role at Dempo will bring its share of expectations and it remains to be seen how he deals with it.
After the debacle of the last season their high hoped from the team and the new coach but with Papas trying to inculcate a different style of playing and still searching his first eleven, clinching the I-League seems a difficult proposition at the moment though a top 3 finish looks on the card. Federation Cup seems a realistic option for the club and with the winners getting a chance to play in Asia, Papas and his team would try to win the tournament. The club also has a relatively favorable draw having been clubbed with teams like Mohammedan Sporting and Mumbai Tigers. As in the case currently, it is likely that Papas will use the Goa Pro League to give opportunity to the younger players in team and experiment with his tactics.
I-League – Top 3 Finish
Federation Cup – Winners
Goa Pro League – A Mid Table Finish