Summer transfer season in I-League saw the addition of Costa-Rican World-Cupper Carlos Hernandez and former Arsenal player Rohan Ricketts join Prayag and Dempo respectively. The trend seems to have continued in winter transfer season with Portugese striker Edinho Junior joinng Shillong Lajong from Blackburn Rovers. Churchill Brothers and Sporting Clube have also made moves in the transfer season, siging couple of players each.
Shillong Lajong Sign Edinho Jr. in a Path Breaking Move
Shillong Lajong have signed Brazilian born Portuguese football player Edon Júnior Viegas Amaral, better know as Edinho Junior, from Blackburn Rovers in a path breaking move. It has been reported that the 18 year old declined an offer from Celtic to join Shillong Lajong. Friday Gbeneme has been released by the club as a result. The move is indeed a historic move considering the fact that no player has joined the I-League from such a big club till date. With 6 rounds to go, Lajong faithfuls would expect that the highly rated young striker can help them avoid relegation. Larsing Ming Sawyan, General Secretary Shillong Lajong Football Club expressed his pleasure at the signing and said “We are thankful to Blackburn Rovers for providing us with a player of Edinho’s quality. He will be an incisive edge to Lajong’s forward line and will definitely add to the quality of the game on the field”
Churchill Brothers Sign Lamine Tamba, Balal Arezou
After the departure of Lebanese defender Bilal Najjarin who has signed for UAE side Fujairah SC, his countryman Akram Akram Moghrabi has also left the club. The duo was largely responsible for leading Churchill Brothers to the top of the table. While Bilal was perhaps the best performers in the Churchill team which rose to the top on back of his solid defending , Akram scored at ease and was a nightmare for any defender in I-League. With pundits across the nation thinking that Churchill would find it tough to survive without the two Lebanese players, the club, continuing with their tradition of bringing high quality foreign players to the I-League, roped in Bilal Arezou and Lamine Tamba
Lamine Tamba brings with a huge experience of playing in I-League and though he has huge shoes to fill in, the Senegalese is quite capable after having successful stints with Pune FC and Mahindra. The 27 year old has been a part of Marseille squad and at 6 ft 1 in will be handful for most I-League strikers. Bilal Arezou, the Afghan captain rose to prominence in the SAFF cup 2011 held in New Delhi where he scored 6 goals including 4 against Bhutan and also scored against India. Fans will vividly how he troubled Indian defense with his pace in the two matches he played against India. Signed from Norway 2nd division club Asker, Bilal is expected to quickly settle down as he comes from the subcontinent himself.
Quinton Jacobs Switches Loyalties To Bagan
Experienced Namibian midfielder Quinton Jacobs, who had once wet for a trial with Manchester United, switched loyalties to Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan after failing to adjust to the new style advocated by David Booth. Jacobs was one of the best players at Salgaocar and was one of more consistent performers but Booth preferred to play him as striker while Jacobs himself admitted that he was more comfortable playing in the midfield. So when the Kolkata giants came calling , he signed on the dotted lines.
The signing of Jacobs indeed comes as a sigh of relief for the struggling Mariners as they look to avoid relegation. The Bagan midfield led by Jewel Raja and Denson Devdas has struggled to create chances for the strikers and Odafa was often frustrated with the lack of service. Having led United Sikkim to the second place in division-2 last season, Jacobs with his impressive ball-skills and accurate passing is an ideal addition to Bagan squad. Simply put it is a smart signing by Karim Bencherifa as Jacobs is an established player in Indian conditions, unlike the new foreign players coming in.
Sporting Rope in Angel Berlanga
Sporting have brought in Angel Berlanga, a Spanish defender who was plying his trade in Auckland City in New-Zealand. Berlanga had an immediate impact as he scored on his I-League debut against Salgaocar, leading his side to a 2-0 win. Berlanga was an influential player for Auckland and even played for his club in the FIFA Club World Cup and also led his club to the pole position in the domestic league. He brings with him a wealth of experience of playing at the highest level which is bound to help the Goan club.
Berlanga is expected to steady the young but inexperienced Sporting defense which has lacked a leader with Keita putting in inconsistent displays and picking up red-cards more often than not. Thanks to his tackling abilities, he can also play as a defensive midfielder as was evident in the first match against Salgaocar. He is bound to take time to settle down in humid conditions and was found to be struggling a bit with his fitness in the first match.After helping his side, he said “It was a dream to score on my debut in front of our supporters. I am hungry to help my new team-mates win and the club to climb the ladder.”
Ex-Malaga Striker Juan Francisco Signs For Sporting
Sporting made their second Spanish signing in a week when they added ex-Malaga Striker Juan Francisco García Peña aka Juanfri to their roaster after signing him from Écija Balompié, a Spanish lower league outfit. Sporting coach Oscar Bruzon is believed to be the brainchild behind this signing. Juanfri has played in one of the world’s toughest league – Spanish La Liga and even scored a goal in Copa del Rey. The move will no doubt add teeth to a Sporting attack which has been patchy this season. Standing at 6ft , Juanfri will be more than a handful from the set-pieces as well. Speaking after acquiring his second Spanish player, Oscar Bruzon said “Capturing the signatures of Angel and Juanfri is great news for the club. They will add a sprinkle of Spanish flavour to a team which is bursting with local Goan talent, who make up the core of the team.“
Lajong Sign U-19 Japanese Striker Sho Kamimura
Sho Kamimura became the latest signing by Shillong Lajong as the club looks to avoid the drop. The Japanese striker who can also operate as a play-maker, had immediate impact as he scored a brace on his debut against Air-India and earned the man-of-match award. Lajong were struggling to score goals as both Sushil Kumar and Friday lost their form after a good start. Lajong were struggling to find a replacement for Johnny Menyongar but now seem to have finally found one.
Kamimura has represented Japan at the U-18 and U-19 levels and has also played in the second division of J-League. He has been signed from Albirex Niigata FC, a club based in Singapore where he scored an impressive 8 goals in 23 games. He showed great understanding with Friday upfront in the first match against Air-India and said “I will work hard and give my best to help the team perform well in all the remaining games“
The Other Signings
United Sikkim were expected to strengthen their foreign contingent and that is what they did bringing in Steve Hayes from Australia, Pablo Rodriquez Aracil from Spain and John Landa Matkin from USA. While Hayes is a midfielder who can play as a defender, Pablo Rodriquez is a striker who has played in the lower divisions in Spain. Hayes in fact won the man-of-match award in his first match where his crosses troubled an in-form ONGC defense. Apart from this Air-India have roped in Afghan defender Mujtaba Faiz in a bid to shore up their defense as they look to avoid the drop.
These indeed interesting times for the Indian Football fans with the I-League entering its final stages and these foreign players would no doubt add more quality in addition to increasing the star-value. Having said that, it remains to be seen how successful each player will prove to be.