The seventh edition of the I-League has delivered several surprises already. Dempo SC and Churchill Brothers SC have had their worst starts ever and already Sukhwinder Singh, the technical director of the defending champions, has resigned, or in other words – got the boot.
Bengaluru FC, a fledging club which wasn’t in existence a few months back, have been the surprise package by topping the league although they have had the luxury of playing all four of their games at home. Pune FC and Salgaocar FC are not far behind and have been impressive so far as well.
However, the most telling statistic is that all the previous winners of the I-League had won a minimum of two matches from their opening four ties. The best record in this regard has been of Karim Bencherifa’s Salgaocar, the winners of the 2010-11 season, who won all of their four opening games while Dempo followed suit in the following year under Armando Colaco.
Until last season, none of the winners had ever lost a tie in their first four matches, as Churchill Brothers had been defeated on the opening day by Dempo.
|Season||League Winners||Results from opening 4 fixtures|
|2007-08||Dempo||3 wins, 1 draw|
|2008-09||Churchill Brothers||3 wins, 1 draw|
|2009-10||Dempo||2 wins, 2 draw|
|2012-13||Churchill Brothers||3 wins, 1 defeat|
Dempo are in transition mode with the exit of Colaco after over a decade while Arthur Papas’ reign hasn’t been smooth with Cresson Antao already being left out of the squad at a time when their defense is in sixes and sevens with their bunch of foreign players underperforming. Their next game is against East Bengal who are arguably the favourites to win the league title given the depth and quality in their squad.
Churchill Brothers face Pune FC next in an away tie and the Red Lizards will be looking to avenge their twin defeats last season to the reigning champions, two results which in the end came back to haunt the Pune-based outfit as they finished second. The Goan side needs to get their act together with injuries hampering their cause as well.
Without Odafa Okolie, Mohun Bagan look a different side altogether. A poor transfer strategy combined with an injured Odafa hasn’t helped Bencherifa but the pressure to win is mounting as they face Sporting Clube de Goa in Kolkata.
It is certainly a difficult task for each of the above mentioned trio to win the league title but not impossible; though history is against them.