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As the I-League season 2013-14 approaches, Goal introduces each of the 13 competitors, while in this edition we take a look at the five time champions


GOALBY   ANSELM NORONHA     Follow @apnoronha on twitter



Dempo Sports Club


Last season's performance: (Finished fifth) - The Golden Eagles enjoyed an unbeaten run for six of their home and away matches respectively, which was put to an end by Arthur Papas' Pailan Arrows. The Australian has since gone on to join the Goan side over the summer.

"In the second half of last year, the team (Dempo) dropped a little bit from where it was in the first half of the season," Papas observed and feels that "it is important to try and get the feeling back that it is a big team, it is a top club, and that doesn't happen easily."

Dempo SC were hit hard by a number of injury concerns besides losses like the 5-1 defeat to Pune FC. While they had a couple of good results in the form of their 5-0 and 7-0 drubbing of Sporting Clube de Goa and United Sikkim FC respectively, they missed the consistency they are known for.

There were also a lot of controversies involving Rohan Ricketts and former coach Armando Colaco which didn't help the team and their choice of foreign players wasn't the best. There were also accusations levelled of certain officals collecting a bribe from players, something which Colaco denied in an exclusive chat with Goal.

"There's a lot of hard work and I'm really pleased with the response from the players and the staff. So we're just going to put our heads down to work really hard this year, to build the club for a very bright future," Papas exhuberated in an exclusive discussion with Goal.


THE COACH

Five years after quitting his playing career due to frequent injury concerns, the Australian became the youngest coach in the Victorian Premier League with Oakleigh Cannons at the age of 30.

Arthur Papastamatis, now 33, thereafter served as an assistant coach in the Australian U-17 national team and Newcastle Jets respectively.

His first assignment in India was with the All India Football Federation (AIFF)-FIFA Navi Mumbai Regional Academy before he took over the reins of the India U-22 side where the youngsters impressed at the AFC U-22 Championship qualifiers.

Papas' first season in the top flight of Indian football came last season when he was entrusted with the responsibility of nurturing the AIFF's "developmental" outfit. Following a decent campaign, he chose not to not to extend his contract with the AIFF and instead signed a three-year long deal with Dempo SC.


TRANSFER DEALINGS

TRANSFERS IN: Signing striker Jeje Lalpekhlua from Pune FC was one of the signings of intent made by the Goan side. Gabriel Fernandes, having impressed at Mumbai FC, was roped in by Dempo SC besides Jewel Raja making a return to his former club. Prathamesh Maulingkar has penned a deal too after spending the second half of the season wih the club on loan from Pailan Arrows. The foreign signings of the club include striker Billy Mehmet from Bangkok Glass FC, former Melbourne Hearts FC defender Simon Colosimo, Shinnosuke Honda from Buriram United, while Roberto Mendes da Silva (Beto) has joined the club again after spending two seasons at Churchill Brothers.


Armando Colaco ended his 13-year stint as Dempo coach

TRANSFERS OUT: Striker Joaquim Abranches and Japanese medio Ryuji Sueoka moved to East Bengal, while Dempo released Koko Sakibo and John Menyongar. The others who were not offered a contract were Selwyn Fernandes, Marcus Peixoto, Covan Lawrence, and Clifton Gonsalves. Climax Lawrence and Valeriano Rebello moved to Mumbai FC, while the duo of Anthony Pereira and Rowilson Rodrigues joined Mohun Bagan.

"The first thing is that we have reduced the size of the squad which was in line with reducing the budget. The average age too - I don't have an issue working with older or younger players, but you got to have a good balance," Papas explained. "We're trying to create a balance between good professionals who have had top experiences - not only who can play at a very good level in the I-League, but also who can be a role model to some of the younger players."

FORMATION AND TACTICS

As long as Dempo are playing with two strikers, a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 formation looks more likely to be adopted by Arthur Papas who was also seen using a 4-2-3-1 arrangement when Jeje was away on national duty.

"We're definitely going to vary between a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3," said the coach. "These are only numbers. I mean, if you take a picture of a game at any given time, you can't see that it's four and two and three and one. It's not so stationary or static and I look at it as a bit more dynamic. Our formation is based on the style of play and on the opposition."

With Subhasish Roychowdhury in between the sticks, Samir Naik, Honda, Colosimo and Debabrata will form the back-line for Dempo. Experienced stopper-back Mahesh Gawli is currently recuperating in Australia, while Cresson Antao has been dropped from Papas' plans.

In the midfield, Godwin Franco might have to face competition from Peter Carvalho who is however injured at the moment.

"I'm not genuinely playing with an out-and-out right winger," the Australian tactician revealed as he wants his wide men to cut inside and have a crack on goal. "We got a lot of options. Romeo Fernandes - I'm looking for him to step up a lot. I'm comfortable playing Clifford Miranda on the right, cutting inside. We got Jewel [Raja] who can fit in that position."


Man to Watch - Peter Carvalho

"My 'Man to watch' is Peter Carvalho. I am very impressed with him so far and once fit he will be instrumental in our midfield's ability to dictate the game with and without the ball," stated Papas.

The versatility of the midfielder is what gives him the edge on the field. Like the coach pointed out, Carvalho has the ability to switch from attack to defense whenever required and is also capable of controlling the pace of the game.


SEASON'S TARGET

"The league is improving a lot. We got to be at our best to be successful and others can judge what success means at the end [of the season] and we have our own way of judging it," Papas mentioned.

Although it's a transitional phase for the club, they will undoubtedly go into the new season hoping to win their favourites tag to lift the I-League title. They have a good squad which has a mix of experienced and young campaigners and with Papas as a guide, they can certainly be one of the front-runners.

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