I-LEAGUE SPECIAL | BY ANSELM NORONHA Follow @apnoronha on twitter
Ahead of the new I-League season, Goal analyses the teams in India's top flight and in this piece, we focus on the Varca-based outfit from Goa.
CHURCHILL BROTHERS SC
Last season's performance: (Did not participate)
Following the withdrawal of Salgaocar FC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Dempo Sports Club, Churchill Brothers are the sole representatives from the state of Goa in Indian football's top tier. The two-time champions return on the back of the Delhi High Court's directive which led to AIFF allowing them to be a part of the I-League.
Churchill Brothers were out of I-League action for two seasons and finished eighth among 11 teams in the recently concluded Goa Pro League where they won only thrice in 15 matches. The last time they turned out in the I-League in the 2013-14 season, the Red Machines finished 12th. However, they did manage to clinch the Federation Cup title and also progressed to the AFC Cup round of 16.
|THE COACH - JOSEPH AFUSI|
Nigerian gaffer Joseph Afusi has already coached the Goan team previously in the 2014-15 Goa Pro League season. He has won a Bangladesh Premier League title with Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi both before and after his last stint with Churchill Brothers. He has also won a Bangladesh Federation Cup title.
Afusi had left Churchill Brothers mid-way through his last term when it was apparent that the club would not be playing in the I-League anytime soon. The 34-year-old was a player-manager in his last term with Sheikh Jamal. The Nigerian coach has also won a second tier league title with Romanian Club Sportiv Municipal Ceahlăul Piatra Neamț.
Churchill Brothers' assistant coach Alfred Fernandes has been scouting for players ever since their participation in the I-League was confirmed. They have snapped up a few seasoned campaigners in Adil Khan, Anthony D'Souza, Brandon Fernandes, Clifford Miranda, Denzil Franco and Keenan Almeida among others.
"We have signed a few players from Salgaocar, Sporting and Dempo. Keenan and Denzil are coming from FC Goa. Aniston (Fernandes), Adil, Meldon (D'Silva) and Jensley Fernandes are coming from Dempo, and one U-23 boy Kingley (Fernandes) from Vasco," Fernandes informed.
Goalkeeper Priyant Singh also makes his way from Dempo, besides Seriton Fernandes from Sporting. Raju Yumnam (FC Pune City), Rowilson Rodrigues (FC Bardez) and Surabuddin Mullick (Peerless) are some of the other additions to the roster. Abhra Mondal, who was training with the club until recently, has jumped ships to sign for new entrants Chennai City FC.
"Among the foreigners, Anthony Wolfe has already arrived and we are completing his transfer. So he's there in the I-League squad. We also have a Kyrgyzstan midfielder Bektur Talgat who will fill in the Asian slot," the Churchill assistant added.
"Ideally we would play a 4-4-2 formation but that would be based on the information we get about our opponents," said Fernandes, who has been in-charge of the first team over the past couple of seasons.
Priyant Singh will mostly see competition from Naveen Kumar in between the sticks. Denzil Franco or Keenan will slot in as the right back with Raju Yumnam on the other flank, while Churchill are expected to sign another foreigner in the defence to play alongside Rowilson Rodrigues.
Brandon and Clifford will be the first choice wingers with Anthony D'Souza, Seriton and Mullick being the back-up options. Talgat will be expected to control the midfield with Antthony Wolfe being tasked with the goalscoring responsibility.
MAN TO WATCH - ANTHONY WOLFE
Trinidad and Tobago international Wolfe is no stranger to Indian football having already plied his trade with Churchill Brothers and fellow Goan side Sporting Goa in the past.
"In football, individual brilliance never counts. It is the team who is going to play and the eleven players who will make it count. Since Anthony has been with us before and that he has played in the AFC Cup also, he can be a vital player factor for us. He is well experienced. So we expect a lot from him," Fernandes professed.
"Our aim is to finish in the top half because we have to compete against the best. With the squad that comprises of some youngsters and some quality foreigners, we can put up a good show," stated Fernandes. Having been out of top tier action for two seasons, and moreover assembling their squad only after most of their options would have already signed elsewhere, the Red Machines will have to toil hard to avoid the drop.