Armando Colaco’s top 5 achievements as Dempo coach
Armando Colaco’s 13-year-stint as Dempo coach officially ends today and Sportskeeda pays tribute to the legendary tactician by listing his top five achievements at the Panjim-based club.
From 2nd Division to NFL Glory
Armando Colaco had spent his entire senior playing career at Dempo but his first big coaching job was at Churchill Brothers, where he won three Goa league titles and finished runners-up in the formerly National Football League (NFL). But after a six-year spell with Churchill, Armando took charge of Dempo in 2000 when they had been just relegated to the second division. It took two years for Dempo to return to the top flight and after a sixth-place finish in their first NFL campaign under Armando, the Whites challenged for the title in the 2003-04 campaign.
Dempo narrowly missed out on the title that season to East Bengal with the Kolkata club’s coach, Subhash Bhowmick, tagging them as “chokers”. But Armando Colaco’s side came back strongly the following season by winning the Federation Cup after some inspirational performances by the late Cristiano Junior and then showed great consistency to win their first NFL title. It was a remarkable transformation within five years and most of it was down to Armando, who set Dempo on their way to greatness.
Dominant force in Indian football
Dempo failed to retain the NFL in 2005-06, finishing a disappointing fifth, but the main reason for that was their involvement in the AFC Cup. But the players and Armando bounced back the following campaign as they won the NFL with two rounds to spare, playing an exciting brand of football with Nigerian Ranti Martins and Brazilian Beto being the standout performers. The challenge was, however, to retain the trophy with no club other than East Bengal achieving that feat in the first eleven years of the NFL.
The NFL was rebranded into the I-League and Dempo were the favourites to win the inaugural season of the newly-launched professional league. They lived up to the expectations by retaining the title, but only just. Armando’s boys fought neck and neck with Churchill Brothers until the very last day of the campaign, eventually finishing top due to a better goal difference than their local rivals. Finally Dempo had managed to win back-to-back titles and became the third club to win the league thrice after Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Consistency in Asia
Armando Colaco had established Dempo as the team to beat in Indian football but in Asia the Goan club failed to make their mark on the first two attempts as they couldn’t make it past the AFC Cup group stage in 2005 and 2006. They were back in the competition in 2008 and with the I-League getting over in February, Dempo had enough time to prepare for the group stage and they finally managed to qualify for the knockout rounds, finishing second, with an away win over former winners Al Muharraq of Bahrain being the most memorable result.
Dempo had matched the feat of Mahindra United by reaching the quarter-finals and soon went one better as they beat Singapore’s Home United 5-4 on aggregate to become the first Indian club to reach the AFC Cup last four. The semi-final produced a heavy defeat against Lebanon’s Safa but the Goan club had made the country proud. They have played in the AFC Cup twice more, reaching the knockout stage on each occasion with the 2009 campaign being highly memorable as Dempo made it past the group stage by finishing ahead of former winners Al Muharraq and Al Faisaly (Jordan).
‘Dempo-style’ of play
Mohun Bagan had won two NFL titles under Subrata Bhattacharya, East Bengal also won the same number of league trophies under Subhash Bhowmick and even the ASEAN Cup, but what made Dempo’s success and consistency even more special was the way they achieved it. Current AIFF technical director Rob Baan and national head coach Wim Koevermans have time and again stressed on the importance of building from the back and keeping the ball on the ground, but this is something Dempo had been doing consistently from their very first NFL campaign under Armando Colaco.
Armando always put emphasis on possession football with the core of the team comprising of India internationals like Mahesh Gawli, Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda and Anthony Pereira. Most of the goal scoring was done by foreigners Ranti, Beto and many others like Mboyo Ibomi, Edeh Chidi etc., but the secret of Dempo’s success was their short passing game with every player, starting from the goalkeeper to the forwards, being comfortable in possession, an attribute which was not common among Indian club sides in the past.
More record-breaking domestic success
Dempo missed out on a hattrick of league titles in 2008-09 and thus were stuck on three with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. The I-League became a 14-team competition in 2009, with the quality of foreigners also improving, so it was always going to be difficult for Dempo to dominate like they had been since 2004. But Armando Colaco and his players were up for the challenge and produced a remarkably consistent campaign as they won the title by a margin of 11 points, the biggest in the I-League era.
It was their record fourth Indian title, making them the most successful team in the combined history of NFL and I-League. When they finished third and six points behind champions Salgaocar in 2010-11, many people thought it would be the end of an era at Dempo. But Armando and his team had one more top season left in them and they showed that in 2011-12 as they secured an unprecedented fifth title with two rounds to spare. Dempo eventually finished with 57 points, a record tally in the I-League since it became a 14-team event and it was Armando’s fifth league crown in nine years, a feat that would be very difficult to match in years to come.