Nike Premier Cup 2018: DSK Shivajians reach final, coach lays down plans for future
DSK Shivajians may no longer be playing in the I-League but their U-15 footballers are making a name for themselves in the Nike Premier Cup, which acts as the U15 Youth League of the country.
After qualifying for the Nationals, the team from Pune blew away SAI Gujarat and Raman Vijayan SS by 9-0 and 12-0 scorelines respectively in the group stage. A tough test awaited for them in the form of East Bengal in the final group game but the DSK kids managed to edge out the Red and Golds 2-1 to make it to the semis.
Bengaluru FC did provide a stiff competition to DSK in the last four clash, but the latter knocked out the 'Blues' in the tie-breaker (5-4) after it finished 0-0 in regulation time.
Ramesh Bista, the coach of DSK, however, treads a cautious path even after taking his team to the final. “No teams are easy to beat in this competition and the top four are the toughest of the lot. The boys will have some good and some bad days and that’s when they get to learn a lot as a team,” he says as DSK await the winner of Minerva Punjab-Aizawl FC match in the final.
Bista reminded that the process put in place by the DSK management doesn’t end with the conclusion of this tournament. “The main idea of the owner is to develop the players. We have groomed a few footballers who are playing ISL. The major target of this group of boys is to get into the U-18 squad,” he says.
The Shivajians having featured in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 editions of I-League pulled out of this season. So where do the players go once they are done with age-level competitions? “We train our players in such a way that they are able to stand on their own feet. We are giving them enough exposure and I am sure they will be taken on board by other Indian clubs,” assures Bista.
This AIFF organised league has given us footballers like Jeakson Singh, Nongdamba Naorem and Anwar Ali, who have gone on to play for the Indian U-17 team in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup. It won’t be a matter of surprise if the next big star of the competition happens to be someone from the DSK squad.