The 2012-13 season might not have been a glorious one for the blue eagles as they finished fifth on the table despite reaching the finals of Federation Cup at the start of the season. The five time I-League champions finished without a single trophy in their cabinet, and also witnessed its long serving coach Armando Colaco been released along with all foreign players.
However, the club seems to have moved on from the debacle as it roped in an experienced Arthur Papas this June as a replacement of Colaco. This appointment brought a fresh wave of air into the club and the Blue brigade is once again set for the footballing carnival.
After signing up for his new club, Papas wasted no time in making his intentions clear as almost 30 players, including the experienced ones like Climax Lawrence and Joaquim Abranches were shown the door by the new gaffer. He has ensured quality performances with the signing of Jeje Lalapekhluha and a second chance to the veteran Samir Naik at the club, which he considers his school.
With the All India Football Federation (AIFF) bringing a norm to restrict the number of foreign players down to four, Papas was handed an additional responsibility of signing the club’s marquee players within the specified budget. The Australian seems to have done a good job there too. Simon Colosimo, Roberto Mendes Silva aka Beto, Shinnosuke Honda and Billy Mehmet will look to add strength and stability to the blue brigade that will be in search for a 6th league title this season. 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.
Goalkeepers: Laxmikant Kattimani, Tyson Caiado, Shilton Fernandes and Subhasish Roy Chowdhury
Subhasish has been Dempo’s first choice keeper for some time 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-ft-tall goalkeeper has fast reflexes and bailed Dempo out of trouble several times in the previous season and will be expected to do the same again.
Subhasish will be assisted by 24-year-old Laxmikant Kattimani who last represented India for the U-23 team in the Pre-Olympic qualifiers and 2009 SAFF Cup. As tall as 6 ft, 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 opportunityy he gets. Tyson Caiado and youngster Shilton Fernandes are the other two goalkeepers in the team.
Defence:Debabrata Roy, Jessel Carneiro, Shallum Pires, Samir Naik, Mahesh Gawli, Prathamesh Maulingkar, Simon Colosimo and Shinnosuke Honda
Defence was one of the major concerns for Dempo last season as Debabrata Roy, Samir Naik and Mahesh Gawli were sidelined at some point of the season owing to injuries. This saw a make-shift defence being fielded by Colaco too often as the squad had lacked enough depth to fill in for the unprecedented losses.
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 feathers to his cap 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. Shinnosuke Honda and Simon Colosimo may form the heart of Dempo’s defence. Veteran Mahesh Gawli, who is recovering from an injury is another option that Papas can exercise, when the player is fit.
Debabrata Roy will be 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 as the right back. 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 defence lead by Simon Colosimo has settled nicely. However the player to watch out for will be their fourth foreign player – Japanese defender Shinnosuke Honda. The 23-year-old central defender who can also play a pivotal role as a holding mid-fielder is expected to bring in his J- League experience whenever he gets the nod.
The noticeable departures from the Dempo midfield include Climax Lawrence, Anthony Pereira and Joaquim Abranches. Despite the departure of the experienced campaigners, Dempo has made some smart signings and the midfield looks quite strong. 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 still regarded as one of the best midfielders in the I-League and his vision and creativity in the heart of Dempo’s 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 came of age in the last season and will look forward to continue his impressive form this season too as he 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, as the young mid-fielders could trouble the opposition with their speed and dribbling skills.
On the wings, Clifford Miranda is expected to retain his role on the left wing, despite the emergence of players like Vineeth and Ralte. Miranda, the skipper for 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 Desai, who idolises Miranda and the Brazilian great Ronaldhino will be another option at Papas’s disposal on 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, Clencio Pinto, Billy Mehmet and Myron Fernandes
A misfiring forward line was another chief reason why Dempo SC struggled last season. The club never recruited any replacement for Ranty Martins and often played without a recognised striker after Koko Sakibo got injured. Papas realising that this needed utmost attention had no second thoughts in bringing in quality 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 (SPL) and the A-League. Mehmet has already settled well even scoring for the club in the Goa League. Jeje, regarded as one of the best strikers in the country at the moment, has come into to the club after a disappointing outing with the national team at the SAFF Cup and an injury prone last season, which forced him to be sidelined for most part of the season. He will provide Papas with a good option for the second striker, provided the foreign recruit becomes the first choice.
If on one hand Dempo has the experience of Jeje and Mehmet , on the other side, the speed and vision of Myron Fernandes, a academy graduate will come in handy for Dempo SC in the long run. Fernandes, a local boy from the stronghold of Mapusa, will hope to continue his academy form when he gets a nod from gaffer. Myron has made his mark in the Goa-League by scoring at regular intervals for the club. Myron was the architect of Dempo’s wins over SESA and Margao, notching up four goals and a couple of assists, but will he replicate his domestic form on the bigger stage, only time will tell.
Though the team looks competitive on paper, how they actually perform on-field is ultimately the decisive factor of the future course of action at Dempo SC.
* The author is a keen follower of Indian Football and a noted correspondent in a leading News Agency