I-League update: Sporting Clube de Goa eye Goa League glory, in search of fourth foreigner

The Oranjes, who had to toil hard to avoid the drop last season, are eager to ensure a good start this time around.

Sporting Clube de Goa, who are still leading the pack in the closely fought Goa Professional League, are still on the lookout for their fourth overseas player ahead of the I-League, with Ndidi Chukuwama the frontrunner. 

The Goan outfit are the only I-League side other than the mighty Bengaluru FC to retain as many as three foreign players from the last campaign, largely because the trio had a number of good showings during the last few weeks of the league. The golden run had helped the Peter Vaz owned side to avoid relegation after going through a terrible 13-match winless streak at the start of the campaign.

Miguel Garcia is set to make a comeback after recovering from an injury he suffered while playing for NorthEast United in the Indian Super League (ISL) while Odafa Okolie, the Indian football veteran, has been scoring goals in the domestic league. The franchise has also retained Mahmoud Al Amna, the Syrian playmaker who paired up brilliantly with Pratesh Shirodkar in the tail end of the league, but struggled to cope with the heat on several occasions.

"One spot in the foreign quota is still open. Ndidi has shown a lot of promise but we haven't finalized him as our fourth foreigner. We will decide about that once the Goa League gets over," Mateus Costa, the coach of the side told Goal.

The club has received a jolt as Brandon Fernandes, who spearheaded Sporting's resurgence months ago, will not be part of the rosters this term, with the youngster choosing to look for greener pastures. Beevan D'Mello and Keenan Almeida have also parted ways, but except for the trio, the core of the team has remained the same.

Ravi Kumar, the promising young custodian, is set to spend a lengthy spell on the sidelines after injuring his meniscus while playing for Delhi Dynamos in a pre-season friendly during the franchise's Scandinavia tour. The Uttar Pradesh lad had his recovery sessions in Kolkata under the guidance of Mohun Bagan physio Djair Garcia. 

While Kamaljit Singh has been impressive between the sticks in the Goa League, the club has roped in FC Pune City shot-stopper Arindam Bhattacharya to fill the void.

"Ravi will be fit by late February or early March. But that should not be a problem as we have got Arindam and the young boys have also developed a lot," Costa remarked.

The gaffer however, is concerned about the injury of experienced defender Creson Antao, as the injury status of the former Dempo man remains unclear at the moment. The side has reacted timely to acquire Dharamraj Ravanan, who didn't have the best ISL outing this season, but has experience playing in India's top tier. The squad will be bolstered by the returns of Pratesh Shirodkar and Victorino Fernandes, who played for Mumbai City FC and FC Goa respectively in the high-profile league.

Waiting on the fringes are a number of youngsters, who will be desperate to seal a first-team berth and make their first mark in national level football. Souvik Das, a central midfielder hailing from Kalyani of West Bengal is one of them, while Alber Gonsalves, who made a few appearances in the last season will try to cement his place on the left flank. However, the Indian football fraternity will be most eager to see Sumeet Passi in action, who has been part of several junior India national team squads, but is yet to show his potential in club football.