On a day when his former India teammate Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's move to Bengaluru FC grabbed the headlines, veteran defender Gouramangi Singh had to settle down for Neroca FC, signing a one-year deal with the new I-League entrants. He had last played for Pune-based outfit DSK Shivajians.
The Manipuri defender, who is 31 and had represented Indian Super League (ISL) outfits Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City in the first three editions of the competition, was part of the Indian players' pool that went under the hammer in the ISL draft last month, but didn't find any suitors.
Singh was offered a deal by Aizawl FC within a week of the draft, but finally chose to join Neroca, who incidentally are the first team from his home state to have qualified for the top-tier competition.
The sturdy stopper, who has made more than 65 appearances for the national team, had trained with the club in the second half of the 2015-16 season, when he was recovering from an injury. "I am thankful to coach Gift Raikhan, who gave me this opportunity to train with the squad. I will like to return that favour sometime in the future," Singh had told Goal during an interaction in Delhi last summer.
The Tata Football Academy (TFA) graduate was a pivotal part of Churchill Brothers' I-League winning side, but has failed to manage a top-half finish in four of his last five clubs.
Neroca has successfully retained the core of the squad that had helped them clinch the second division title in the last campaign. The likes of Govin Singh, Lalit Thapa, Subash Singh, Saran Singh et al. have already committed another year to the fledgling side, that had finished second best at the Durand Cup last time.
Their prospects have been further bolstered by the arrival of Australian defender Aryn Williams, who is a youth product of English Premier League side Burnley and had played in A-League for Perth Glory. Along with the Aussie defender, Haitian attacking midfielder Fabien Vorbe has also been roped in. The 27-year old player had last played for Club Deportivo Serrato Pacasmayo in Peru and was part of the country's Under-17 World Cup squad a decade ago.
Vorbe is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of Haitian footballers plying their trade in the Indian leagues. The likes of Sony Norde, Duckens Nazon, Kervens Belfort, Wedson Anselme and Frantz Bertin have all earned significant playing time during their recent stints here.
Neroca FC are currently in Bangkok for their pre-season training.