Arthur Papas was jubilant after his side sealed three points against defending, yet beleaguered champions of the I-League, Churchill Brothers. Jeje Lalpekhuia scored the only goal of the match as Dempo recorded only their second victory of the season.
Speaking after the match, Papas focused specifically on his side's depth in character and their will to win and make an impact in the league following this victory.
Being questioned on how his team adapted without Irish forward Billy Mehmet, Papas replied, “That’s why you need a squad at the end of the day. Billy got injured at the end of the last game. But, we have a little bit more depth. So I played Jeje in a wide area than playing him in a more natural position of number 9 and I’m happy for him because he took his goal well. He could have had a couple more early on and in the second half it began immediately as we had two very good chances. I also spoke to the players about the character it takes to play in a derby match and the kind of pressure we’ve been under as well, as it hasn’t been the best of starts and we’ve acknowledged that.
“But we stuck together and you see that the group is improving and we look like a balanced team - that’s the biggest thing. I think organisationally we’re getting better as we haven’t conceded in two games and that’s a big thing over here. Score the first goal and not conceded. Overall I’m happy for the players as they put in their effort and today, got their reward,” added Papas.
The Australian reconfirmed his belief in all the members of his squad, after two players of his side were singled out for praise, choosing to elucidate, “I had fourteen or fifteen soldiers out there and they really fought for the club. That was the biggest thing I told the boys. It’s also about pride when you put the jersey on and it’s also about learning how to win well in all circumstances, not just playing pretty and that was very important for us given the upcoming break as well.”
Papas was at odds with the fact that a lot of attention was focused on the number of under 23 players in his squad and not their overall contribution to the game of Dempo SC. Choosing the post-match conference to highlight the philosophy behind his selection criterion, Papas had a few interesting thoughts to bring forth.
“What I find is that people in this league are making a big thing about me playing two-or-three under 23 players. I counted the team sheet before the match and I had seven under 23 players in the squad of eighteen. It doesn’t bother me at all. If you’re old enough then you’re good enough. It’s a really simple thing. They aren’t the reason we’re winning at the moment but they’ve given us a lot of balance.
"If you look at Pranoy [Halder] in the midfield then he’s providing us with some balance to protect some players like Beto and other attacking players as well. Narayan (Das) has been called to the Indian national team as well but he’s nineteen years old. It’s great for Indian football and not just for Dempo SC. I think that’s a big thing. If eleven of them have shown me they’re good enough, then eleven of them will play."
Papas added: “It doesn’t matter who’s going to help Dempo get a better result, but also who is going to take Dempo forward in the next three or four years. You can’t think short term because if you have a plan for three weeks, then to be honest there’s no way the club can be sustainable. You need a good batch of old players and a good batch of young and in-between age players. They need to be quality. Romeo [Fernandes] was just so influential today as the Arrows boys and he’s an under 23 as well so I was really happy with his game.”
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