“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, a famous cliché in sports but executed by very few teams across the globe. Dempo Sports Club though has made that cliché their own in the past eight years. Since their first I-League triumph in the 2004-05 season, The Eagles have gone on to win four more titles to become the most successful club in NFL/I-League history.
As the dust settles on Dempo Sports Club’s record fifth I-League triumph www.demposportsclub .com takes a look at five crucial games that shaped the destiny of the record breaking season.
22nd October, 2011: Salgaocar Sports Club 0-1 Dempo Sports Club
The first match of any season was always going to be tough especially with the lack of confidence following a disappointing group stage exit in the Federation Cup. To make matters worse though, their opponents were the defending I-League Champions and had just returned after beatingEast Bengalin their own backyard to win the Federation Cup. To add to Dempo’s cup of woes was the failure to obtain Densill Theobald’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC), a ruling which meant that Dempo would have to play without him till January- when the second transfer window opened.
All odds were stacked against the former champions but as they say-“Cometh the hour, cometh the men”. A scrappy Ranti Martins goal late into the game was enough for Dempo to win the opening game of the League and pick all three points. That game would eventually set the tone for Ranti Martins who finally went on to score 32 goals in the season.
2nd November, 2012: Dempo 5-0 Mohun Bagan
The Mariners had assembled one of the most feared teams at the start of the season. Odafa Okolie, Sunil Chhetri, Jose Barreto, Hudson Lima, Anwar Ali and Syed Rahim Nabi were all on the roster of the Green and Maroons. Though they came toGoawithout the injured Odafa Okolie they were still a formidable outfit. But a Blue Tornado hit the Nehru Stadium right from the start of the match. Ranti Martins scored a blinder from 35 yards to open the floodgates and by half time the Mariners were already 0-4 down. Such was the dominance of Dempo that even Samir Naik got forward and scored a rare goal. It could have been worse for Bagan had not Joaquim Abranches miss three to four sitters. After the break though, Abranches scored his second and Dempo’s fifth to complete the rout. Ranti too hit the target twice. That game would eventually set the tone for Dempo to win their opening seven games on the trot- a record never ever achieved before. Football pundits though opine that the streak could have been extended had Dempo not been deprived of eight of their players for the game against Churchill that ended their unbeaten run.
22nd December 2012 : Dempo 3-2 Sporting Clube de Goa
After the high of winning their first seven matches on the trot, Dempo suffered three successive defeats in the League losing to Churchill, East Bengal and Air India. They were also humbled thrice in that period in the Goa League, losing to Salgaocar Sports Club, Santa Cruz Club of Cavelossim and Vasco Sports Club. That run of six straight defeats took the wind out the sails of Armando Colaco’s boys. The game against Sporting Clube de Goa was crucial from that aspect. After a goalless first half, Dempo fell behind through a strike from Dawson Fernandes. It looked as if Dempo’s losing streak would be extended to seven matches. But an inspired substitution from Armando Colaco throwing in Joy Ferrao changed the complexion of the match. After coming on the young Joy quickly equalized in the 63rd minute after being set up by Godwin Franco and then assisted Koko Sakibo to give Dempo the lead. Ranti Martins then made the result safe in the 83rd minute. Dempo had finally broken their losing duct and secured one of their most important wins of the season.
1st April, 2012: Mohun Bagan 2-2 Dempo
After the National team break for the AFC Challenge Cup, the I-League resumed for the last six rounds. Dempo had the toughest run in among all other championship contenders having to play HAL, Sporting Clube de Goa, Churchill, Mohun Bagan,East Bengaland Prayag United SC. At the start of the game against Mohun Bagan, Dempo were only six points ahead ofEast Bengaland a loss against the Mariners would have handed pole position to the Red and Golds to snatch the title away from Dempo.
Dempo surged ahead in the 4th minute courtesy a strike from their goal machine Ranti Martins through a spot kick after Kingshuk Debnath had handled the ball in the penalty area. But from then on it was the Odafa Okolie show as the talismanic Nigerian striker pumped in two goals in quick succession to give the advantage to the home side going into the break. In the second half, Dempo tried their best to equalize but the Bagan defense stood tall. Dempo though, were finally rewarded for their persistence when Koko Sakibo scored against the run of play to earn Dempo a crucial point. It was only Dempo’s second draw of the season but one of their most crucial points of the season.
11th April, 2012, Churchill 2-4 Dempo
This game was the decider for Churchill. A win would have taken them to within three points of Dempo, while a loss would mean the end of their title aspirations. Like every other Goan derby this one too started cautiously under the lights at Fatorda with a packed crowd cheering the two sides along. There was nothing much to separate the two sides until the 37th minute when Clifford Miranda broke free from his marker to blast home from close range. But Beto returned to haunt his former club, equalizing after just two minutes to take Churchill on level terms at half time.
After the break things got worse for Dempo when Beto got his second of the night to put Churchill ahead and in contention for a hard fought win. But just when it seemed that Churchill would tighten the noose around Dempo, Beto got himself sent off for a second yellow card after he deliberately handled the ball. Dempo then were quick to take advantage of the extra man and pumped in three goals. First Ranti Martins equalized through a brilliant volley from just outside the box. Then Koko Sakibo gave Dempo the lead after finally converting one of the numerous chances that he had. Former Churchilll defender Rowilson Rodrigues then scored against his former club with a looping header, five minutes from the end to complete the rout.
The Coronation: 20th April, 2012: Dempo 0-0East Bengal
This game didn’t really live up to expectations but we have put it in the list of our defining matches of the season simply because this match won Dempo the title in our backyard against our closest rivals. The 0-0 draw withEast Bengal sparked wild celebrations and history and record books were re-written after Dempo became the first team to win five National League titles.