Pune FC, a club which has vastly improved over the past few years and is now on the road to becoming one of the powerhouses of Indian Football. Last month, Pune FC became the first club to get green signal for the AFC and National License for the 2013/14 season, confirming their place in the I-league which kicks off later this month. This not only vindicated the professionalism adopted by Pune FC but also showed other clubs the formula for success. With the recruitment of a new coach, new foreign players, and the dawn of new season, Pune FC is doing everything in style and is showing that it truly means business.
GoalKeeper: Arup Debnath, Shahihlal Meloly, Amrinder Singh
Arup Debnath was on Pune FC’s radar since 2009 and the club finally managed to sign him away from the Mumbai Tigers FC this season. The 25 year old custodian is quite experienced and is a great addition to Pune FC’s squad. Having had brief stints with East Bengal, Air India, Kenkre FC, he made the goalkeeper position his own at Mumbai Tigers FC and was instrumental in their Durand Club and I-League 2 campaign triumphs.
Shahinlal Meloly was the second choice keeper for Pune FC last season and as always has shown great potential to be Pune FC’s # 1. His tenacity in goal is impressive as evident in the friendly against Blackburn Rovers two seasons ago. He will be competing for the top place with Arup Debnath which is always a good problem for a coach to have.
Amrinder Singh is one of the many youngsters who have made his way up the ladder from the Pune FC academy. The 20 year old has already made his debut for Pune FC’s first team and produced a clean sheet against the Dempo SC game last season. Being a part of the U-20 I-league winning Pune FC squad, Amrinder’s short career has been productive already.
Defence : Calum Augus, Zohalingam Ralte, Srikanth Ramu, Salam Rajan Singh, Longjam Gobin Singh, Anas Edathodika, Gurjinder Kumar, Caitono Costa, Othallo Tabia
Although the departure of Chika Wali to Salgaoncar SC left a chink in the armor for Pune FC, the addition of English defender Calum Angus provides a strong replacement. The 27 year old central defender started his career at Portsmouth FC Academy before moving to the United States. He then travelled in the US playing for different teams before moving to Swedish top flight side Göteborgs Atlet-och Idrottssällskap (Gothenburg Athletics & Sports Association) popularly known as GAIS.
Two youngsters from the Pune FC academy, Salam Ranjan Singh and Longjam Gobin Singh, have been promoted to the senior side after showcasing great performances with the junior teams. Anas Edathodika, the Pune FC Player of the Year last season has signed a two-year contract extension and has set a goal of I-league glory for Pune FC. With the veterans Caitano Costa and Othallo Tabia in the squad, Coach Snoei has depth any coach would want for his defense.
Midfield : Dhanpal Ganesh, Jovel Martins, Anthony D’Souza, Arata Izumi, Velington Rocha, Mumtaz Akhtar, Nikhil Kadam, Fanai Lalrempui, Douhou Pierre, Shanmugam Venkatesh
Two key signings which Pune FC has made this season are wingers Jovel Martins and Anthony D’Souza. These signings have once again proved Pune FC’s emphasis on the youth system and building a squad. Jovel Martins played with Sporting Club De Goa before moving to Pune FC this season. The versatile and fast-paced winger can play on left wing or left wing back positions and is known for his pin-point crossing into the box. Anthony D’Souza, another left winger, was tracked by Pune FC over the past 2 years. They have finally managed to recruit the 26 year old SESA Football Academy product from Salgaocar SC for this season.
Pune FC academy youth players Velington Rocha, Nikhil Kadam and F Lalrempuia have all been officially included in the squad for this season after having impressed during the second half of last season with Senior team. This again highlights Pune FC’s strong youth system.
Along with the aforementioned players, the ever-young Shanmugam Venkatesh has signed a new contract with Pune FC this season and adds a great value to the squad with his rich experience in the Indian Football scene. One of the talking points of last year Arata Izumi, who became the first foreign national to play for the Indian National Team, also extended his contract until 2015. Arata, along with Douhou Pierre and Mumtaz Akhtar, make a potent central midfield partnership. The retention of Douhou, one of the best passers in I-League is in itself as good as a new signing for Pune FC.
Forwards : James Meyer, Raul Fabiani, Prakash Thorat, Thongkhosiem Haokip
James Meyer, who signed under the Asian-quota is one of the three strikers to have signed this season for Pune FC. The 27-year old Sydney-born striker is known for his versatility and pace and can play anywhere on the attack line. He previously played for Brisbane City FC, Bohemian FC, Hertha Berlin, and Brisbane Olympic FC before joining Pune FC from the Brisbane Roars.
Raúl Iván Fabiani Bosio, one of the big catches this season, joined from Villareal CF this season.
The 29 year old Villareal ‘B’ striker who stands 6 feet 6 inches tall, featured for the Equatorial Guinea national team in 2012 African Cup of Nations. Raul has experience at various clubs in Spain and Greece.
Prakash Thorat and Thongkhosiem Haokip are two Indian strikers on the squad. Prakash Thorat will be the third player from Pune to play for Pune FC after Paresh Shivalkar and Sandesh Gadkari who both now play for Mumbai Tigers FC. Thorat has previously played with Air India.
Derrick Pereira, one of the script writers in Pune FC’s success story, completed his tenure at end of the season with the club. It brought an end to a fantastic career. The decision wasn’t easy for Pereira but he decided to head back to his family in Goa and now has joined Salgaocar SC. Mike Snoei, who is his replacement, believes in a similar philosophy of building a youth team and Pune FC have found an ideal fit for the job. Rotterdam based Snoei has a wealth of experience having coached teams at both European and Asian leagues. Before joining Pune FC, Snoei was assistant coach at Panathinaikos FC and head coach at Al Ahli, Dubai, Umm-Salal SC, Qatar, and Shandong Luneng in China.
Coach Snoei has made his intentions clear of adopting the youth system and appreciates the club’s philosophy to promote and develop youth in the coming years. He has hinted about a slight change in the playing style and has already made few foreign player signings for the club. Being brought up in the Netherlands, he is comfortable employing a style similar to the Dutch style at Pune FC. He has also made it clear to the fans that Pune FC will be going for silverware this season and also emphases on playing a distinctly attractive brand of football.
At the onset of a new season, Pune FC has a different system from what it has been over the past few years. The club’s aggressive and professional approach not only suggests that they mean business this year but also have laid a strong emphasis on its youth system, which is a way forward for Indian Football. There is no doubt that coach Snoei, although in his first season, will be expected to deliver after having a high bar set by Pereira. With Asian Football coming to Pune, Snoie’s experience in utilizing the squad depth will be closely watched by the Indian Football fraternity.
Pune FC has not had great success in IFA Shield, Durand Cup and Federation Cup, and with AFC and Rovers Cup being the new addition to the list, the Red Lizards will be expected to earn their share of silverware this season.
The club has done a lot for the fans and has begun with promotion events to develop a larger fan base. It will be interesting to see how the club manages to attract people from across the city with their new branding strategy.
Pune FC has also reached out to local schools in Pune with the primary objective of understanding how the game can be promoted on a larger scale. They also have plans to start Pune FC junior team trials starting from age group of U-10, 13 and 15. Pune FC is already setting a high standard for other clubs in I-league and this approach has certainly given hope for Indian football to flourish on a larger scale.
Written by Chetan Zawar