Until yesterday, Dempo SC held the record for being the only I-League side to qualify for the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Cup semi-final stages. That record has since been re-stamped by East Bengal, who became the second I-League team to reach the semis after downing Semen Padang 2-1, on aggregate, in a lively match at the Haji Agus Salim stadium in Padang, Indonesia.
Speaking to The Times Of India after the match Joaquim Abranches, a former Dempo striker now plying his trade at East Bengal, said the side had enough quality to topple all substantial challenges to follow in their quest for AFC Cup glory.
“We can go where no (Indian) club has gone before. East Bengal is a fantastic squad. We showed everyone that we are as good, if not better, than any other team in the competition and there is no reason why we cannot make it to the final. This team has quality,” pointed out Abranches, who was in the company of former Dempo teammates Chidi Edeh and Abhijit Mondal, both who are now at East Bengal.
Abranches’ has also been personally backed by his former mentor and coach Armando Colaco. It was under Armando’s tutelage that a then 19 year-old Joaquim stepped onto the field in Dempo colours. Now, 8 years further on Colaco has lavished praise on the Salcete-born lad, who will soon make history himself as the only player to play in two AFC semi-finals, his first of course coming with Dempo.
“He (Abranches) is a true fighter who never gives up. I’m looking forward for him to do well in the semis,” elucidated Colaco to The Navhind Times, with pride after admitting he cared not miss a moment’s action of East Bengal’s match.
Abranches was part of the Dempo squad that lost over the course of two semi-final legs to Saba FC from Lebanon, but knows his current team have the right mix of talent to add another chapter into Indian football’s history and go all the way to the finals and possibly, win the competition too.
“When I decided to leave Dempo and Goa, I chose East Bengal carefully. It's a well-managed team, consistently playing good football and now we are on the cusp of history. I think I can do with East Bengal what I could not with Dempo,” concluded Abranches.
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