Kochi: Churchill Brothers coach Mariano Dias was pleasantly surprised when he saw some journalists from Calcutta at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, here, on Friday morning. “You guys did not take the flight back home with Bagan?” he asked.
It was not sarcasm, but a question lobbed out of surprise. Ironically, there was no journalist from Goa at the ground for the all-Goa Federation Cup final between Churchill Brothers and Sporting Clube de Goa while there were at least five from Calcutta.
“It’s nice though to see you guys here,” Mariano was smiling. And then the man who played ‘party-popper’ by plotting Mohun Bagan’s downfall on Thursday trudged back into the field as his team was about to begin the practice session.
Both Churchill and Sporting Clube de Goa are eyeing their maiden Federation Cup title and that is something, which is driving them on. And both are deserving finalists. While Churchill showed Bagan their place, Sporting Clube won a thrilling semi-final against Dempo Sports Club.
Churchill have been a revelation this Federation Cup. Their I-League form has been so pathetic that no one gave them even an outside chance. The focus was more on East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. But Churchill have proved everyone wrong.
Anthony Wolfe, Balwant Singh, Lenny Rodrigues, Abelhamid Shabana have all contributed to this turnaround. The way this team played against Mohun Bagan was simply out of this world. It’s true Bagan had glaring shortcomings but to capitalise on those was not an easy task. Mariano feels Thursday’s victory has given their confidence a huge boost.
“We have got a big boost. Now we just have to keep our feet firmly on the ground,” he said. Captain Lenny Rodrigues also eched his coach’s view. “Yes we are confident. But not complacent.”
Lenny, for the record, is with this team for the last six years and not winning the Federation Cup rankles. “It’s something I want to win. It’s like taking the monkey off your back,” the soft-spoken midfielder said.
Lenny, along with Shabana are the men who pull the strings from the midfield. And up front Balwant and Wolfe have proved quite a handful for the rival defence. But then Sporting Clube are not Bagan, who will bow down without putting up a fight.
They are one of the in-form teams right now. A young side, this team under Oscar Bruzon have improved by leaps and bounds. Boimah Karpeh, Victorino Fernandes, Ogba Kalu have showed what they are capable of.
Victorino is a special talent. He has the skill unlike many of his peers and is someone who plays the game differently. No wonder national coach Wim Koevermans holds this young man as one for the future.
Kalu also is in red-hot form and is the barometer of the Sporting Clube team. If he plays well this team looks different, and when the Nigerian has one of the rare bad days in office Sporting Clube’s fortune comes crashing down.
“We played a very tough match against Dempo. The team is feeling exhausted, but it’s the final. And mind you we haven’t won this title ever. So we are prepared to fight till the end,” Bruzon said.
Sporting Clube qualified for the semi-finals from a group which also had East Bengal and Bengaluru FC. That shows how good this team is. “In the end, it’s team spirit and guts which count. We worked hard for what we have achieved. And I am proud of this bunch. They way they played in the semis was amazing,” Bruzon said.
Bruzon is not thinking about the outcome of Saturday’s match. He just wants his boys to go out and enjoy the game. “That’s more important. If you do not enjoy, how can you perform.”
You cannot argue on that point.