They may have lost their first game 1-2 to Chennaiyin, but expect Goa—the Brazilians of Indian football—to hit back strong as the season progresses. Owned by Virat Kohli, who, as we speak, has just hit form with an ODI century again, along with Venugopal Dhoot, Dattaraj Salgaocar and Shrinivas Dempo.
Salgaocar and Dempo, as widely known, are Goa’s famous I-League teams.
First and foremost, it is their coach that inspires confidence. Brazilian legend Zico, also known as “White Pele”, has coached Japan and Iraq, as well as Olympiacos and CSKA Moscow. A world cup medal remained elusive for him, but he is no slouch with the managerial wand.
Under his command, Frenchman Robert Pires—who was manhandled and roughed up in his first Indian game against Chennaiyin—is the marquee player, thanks to his huge Arsenal fanbase in the country. He was known as one of the foremost strikers from the ‘Invincibles’ generation of Arsenal, and was responsible for finishing some of the most incredible plays ever seen in EPL history. Add a World Cup (1998) and Euro (2000) title to his kitty, and there you have it.
As a partner up front, he will have Nigerian Dempo legend Ranti Martins, who is easily the most prolific striker in the I-League. The 28 year old is yet to play for his birth country, but is already a household name in India, thanks to his record 32 goals in 2011-12 season, and a staggering 172 goals for Dempo in his 8 years there at the rate of more than a goal a game.
Goa’s backline is equally impressive, with Brazilian leftback Andre Santos leading the wall. Santos is also an ex-Arsenal player, after having played with Corinthians and Flamengo back home. Frenchman Central defender Gregory Arnolin will further provide strength, along with Indian internationals (Dempo) Debabrata Roy and youngster Narayan Das.
Dempo goalie Laxmikant Kattimani and Czech goalie Jan Seda will have it considerably easier with the wall upfront.
The midfield will be orchestrated by Indian veteran Clifford Miranda, who is one of the current living legends of Dempo and Goa. He will be assisted by 22-year old talented Mohun Bagan midfielder Bikramjit Singh, and central midfielder and current Dempo star Jewel Raja. The attacking midfielder Alwyn George has played for India already on 9 occasions, and is known for controlling the tempo of games.