The 34th edition of the Federation Cup is all set to kick-off from Wednesday (September 19) with I-League champions Dempo crossing swords with Pailan Arrows, All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) developmental side at the JRD TATA Complex in Jamshedpur.
The other venue for the coveted tournament is Siliguri which will host its first match on Thursday (September 20) between Goan giants Churchill Brothers and Kolkata counterparts Mohun Bagan.
Salgaocar – in group B along with Prayag United SC, United Sikkim and Pune FC – are the defending champions. The Goan side beat East Bengal 3-1 in the finals last year.
Dempo certainly stay as are favourites against Pailan. With the likes of Japanese playmaker Ryuji Sueka bolstering their already loaded arsenal, it is but natural to back them to win the first match against Arrows comprehensively. But Coach Armando Colaco feels, the beautiful game is beyond ‘paper.’
“Pailan are a young team. They have everything to win. So we can never take it easy against them. They have few very good players with lots of potential,” he says. “In fact, we cannot take any match lightly,” he added.
“We have retained almost the same team. However, Ryuji stays a new recruit and he has adjusted well.”
Arthur Papas, who took charge of Arrows recently, is coming on the back of a promising stint with the India U-22 side in AFC U-22 Championship (Qualifiers) in Muscat. The Australian tactician earned a lot of accolades for his game-changing strategies during the course of the meet. With only 16 days of practice prior to landing in Muscat, Papas had instilled a sense of self-belief among the boys besides making them get accustomed to a new style of play.
In an interview, he said: “Our preparations have focused on further developing our playing philosophy whilst incorporating our football conditioning model at the same time. So far the squad has stuck to the philosophy which is pleasing indeed. I’m satisfied with the level of progression achieved.”
“At this moment, we are at a positive level both in our football conditioning and also our ability to execute it on the field. The Federation Cup is another opportunity to expose our talented Indian Youth players to a pressure environment playing against some very strong teams,” he added.
It is not only about the coach in the Arrows camp. Milan Singh, Alwyn George, Shouvik Ghosh have had the experience of being in the Indian National Camp for the Nehru Cup.
Take Alwyn George as example. The 20-year old attacking midfielder’s glimpses of brilliance came to the fore in his short stint in the recently concluded Nehru Cup which India won for the third straight time. Against Cameroon in what a dress rehearsal for the summit clash, Alwyn came on a late second half substitute and almost scored a goal dribbling past defenders in style.
His piece of brilliance had not escaped National Team coach Wim Koevermans’ watchful eyes. “The young lad performed really well today. In the 10 minutes he was on the pitch today, he almost scored and his on and off the ball movement was superb,” the Dutchman had said in the post match Press Conference.
Dempo on the other hand have a relatively unchanged squad from last year with the inclusion of Sueka as mentioned above. The former Salgaocar man can play behind and also initiate and they would be depending on him a lot.
The kick-off is at 3pm.