2012-13 was one of the most memorable and successful seasons for Pune FC  as the club finished 2nd in the I-League  and also managed to earn themselves a place in Asian Football after the rules were changed by the AIFF.

Pune FC players celebrate Arata Izumi’s strike.

One of the person who has been instrumental in writing the script for Pune FC’s success story is Coach Derrick Pereira. Credit must also go to the management for showing full faith in him. His shrewd signings and effective utilization of academy players have made sure that a strong foundation has been laid for the Club to be a powerhouse of Indian Football. Foreign players such as James Moga and Boima “Jerry”  Karpeh proved to be brilliant signings and even Daisuke Nishiguchi played a significant role in the initial half of the season. Academy players such has Nikhil Kadam, F Lalrempuia and Velington Rocha and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh also had roles to play this season. This again proved that the Pune FC academy is on the right track with coaches Ranjan Chaudary and Gift Raikhan leading from the front.

THE SEASON

Pune FC had a slow start to the season with the team not managing to go beyond the first round of either Durand cup or Federation Cup. But they have always had a great record in the I-League; and this time the story was no different. Pune FC had a great start to the season with the side winning the first two games of the season, incidentally at home, and holding the top spot in the I-League table for first few rounds of the season. This was the first time that Pune FC managed to be at the top since its inception.

Pune FC managed to win 9 out of their first 13 league games which was their best ever start to their season. James Moga, Jeje, Karma, Daisuke, Subhash, Arata and Douhou were in top form during this first half of the season which made Pune FC’s forward line one of the most potent in the league. It almost looked that Pune FC could clinch their first league title this season when they thrashed Dempo 5-1  in their own backyard. Pune FC have always known to be a strong team in the second half. Having started the league on such a high, being one of the top contenders for the league was inevitable. But this time, the story was different and Pune FC lost crucial points post Christmas losing to Prayag, East Bengal and Salgaocar in consecutive away fixtures.

But the final chance which broke Pune FC’s chances to win the league title was the loss to Churchill brothers at Goa. With Pune FC missing many chances in that fixture, Churchill ensured they punished them dearly and won the fixture and essentially, the league. But despite all finishing second, Pune FC have had a lot of positives to take from the season and this season indeed was their best seasons ever.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SEASON

  1. Beating Defending champions Dempo SC 5-1 in both the games including a 5-1 hammering of the Goans in their own backyard.
  2. Academy player Nikhil Kadam was on the score sheet. F Lalrempuia and V Rocha too debuted and impressed underlying the youth development process at the club.
  3. The reserve team of the club also did a commendable job particiapting in tournaments across the nation and winning the All India Gold Cup.

BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON

Pune FC’s best performance of the season and one of the high points for the club was their 5-1 victory over Dempo SC on 15th December, 2012.  With all their top players on the score sheet, and all players assisting, this is one game which all the players and the staff will remember for a long time. It was a wonderful exhibition of free flowing football for which the club is known for playing.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON

The loss to Churchill brothers at Goa proved and almost ended their chances of winning the title. It was a wrong time for the team to give a lack luster performance. In one of the scrappiest performance by Pune FC this season, the team still managed to create a few chances which went begging. Churchill Brothers on the other hand was a team in top form and took a crucial win to move closer to the title

PLAYER OF THE SEASON – Anas Edathodika

Pune FC player of the season Anas Edathodika

Pune FC player of the season Anas Edathodika

Pune FC’s player of the season and also voted by the club was, without any surprise, Anas Edathodika. The 26 year old Kerala-born defender stood like a wall in the defense line and also featured in teams of the months on various occasions. He was Pune FC’s players to have featured in maximum fixtures in the I-League thereby underlining his importance in the team.

OUTSTANDING PLAYERS

This was one of the best seasons for Pune FC and undoubtedly, their stars had significant roles to play. They lived up to their expectations as most of them featured in the “I-League Team of the Month” section of THT. James Moga was one of the catches of the season for Pune FC. The big striker was the top scorer for Pune FC this season and scored some spectacular goals. Jeje Lalpekhlua was another player who had an impressive season upfront despite being sidelined by injury for a long time. The youngster bagged five goals to his credit.

Izumi Arata, one of the fan favorites too was in top form. Incidentally, he made his debut for India and made history by being the first foreign players to play for India. His versatility on the pitch ensured Derrick Pereira had enough options in the midfield. Douhou Pierre, the club captain was at his usual best. Assisting and scoring, he was one of the most important players for the coach in his armory and he was also one of the favorites among the team mates. Khantang Paite, who was loaned from East Bengal, had a brilliant season at Pune FC. His tireless wing play earned him a lot of accolades from the coach as well. Karma Tsewang was one of the unsung heroes for Pune FC this season and played a key role as well in the midfield

Chika Wali, the big Nigerian defender also had a vital part in the defense and defensive midfield. Along with Anas, he ensured that the Pune FC defense was water-tight.

THE VERDICT

With a chance to play in the AFC Cup next season, finishing 2nd in the season and already producing fine academy players, Pune FC is here to stay and soon can be one of the top clubs in India. With the owners being optimistic and supportive, it would not be long when Pune FC earn their share of silverware.

Written by TheHardTackle’s Guest Author Chetan Zawar.