I-League 2018/19: Churchill Brothers season Preview, Squad, Probable XI, Prediction
Churchill Brothers will be getting their I-League season started against Minerva Punjab in a crucial away match on Sunday. They will be representing the entire western part of the country.
The I-League has always been a topsy-turvy affair for the Goanese club. Two-time champions had to endure good and bad moments in the last few seasons. They finished in the ninth position in the league table last season, just above the Indian Arrows. With Arrows having a no-relegation rule given by the All India Football Federation, it was the Churchill Brothers who had been relegated.
Once a champion state, many clubs from Goa shut their shop after the invention of Indian Super League. Dempo Sports Club and Salgaocar merged to form FC Goa. Churchill could have followed the same path because it was easier to shut shop than incur losses playing in the 2nd division.
In Churchill’s absence, there was no club to represent not only Goa but also the entire western part of the country in the I-League. AIFF officials, after much discussion, decided to bring back Churchill in the top division.
After getting the green signal, Churchill management started the operation of revamping the squad. They retained some players and added a few fresh faces in their team.
Churchill Brothers Squad
Churchill had close to 50 players in their hand. But coach Petre Gigiu, after some practices and trials, cut the number to 18 for the I-League. The Goan club has retained three foreigners – Eldor Hussein, Cessay Gawda and Willis Plaza, who joined from East Bengal in the latter half last season.
They have signed three foreign players. Khalid Aucho came from East Bengal along with Bosnian defender Nenad Novakovic. They roped in Mexican striker David Izazola, who is considered to be an exciting talent to play in the league.
Goalkeepers: Kunzang Bhutia, James Kithan.
Defenders: Alber Gonsalves, Wayne Vaz, Eldor Hussein, Leny Levis Pereira, Nenad Novakovic, Jovel Martins.
Midfielders: Nicholas Fernandes, Israil Gurung, Khalid Aucho, Richard Costa, Vinil Poojary, Fredsan Marshall, Umesh Harijan.
Forwards: Uttam Raoi, Cessay Dawda, David Izazola and Willis Plaza.
Churchill Brothers coach
After five years at the helm, Marino Dias left Churchill last year. Romanian coach Petre Gigiu has been hired by the club this year. The coach had no say in the team selection as most of the players were already signed before his arrival.
But the Romanian coach tried to put things in order with his innovative training and inspirational methods. During a recent chat, he said, “You have to remember that some of the players were part of the last season and they got relegated in the I-League. Now, transformations cannot happen overnight. When I tell the players that I want them to become champions, they may have doubts, since they were fighting to save relegation. I want to change that mindset.”
Churchill Brothers probable XI
Former ATK goalkeeper Kunzang Bhutia will be doing the duties under the bar. Eldor Hussein will be at the heart of their defence along with Wayne Vaz, Albert Gonsalves and Jovel Martins.
Khalid Aucho will take control of the midfield along with Cessay Dawda. Israil Gurung and Richard Costa will be positioned at the wings. Izazola and Plaza are expected to take the forward position.
Probable XI: Bhutia, Gonsalves, Hussein, Vaz, Martins, Gurung, Dawda, Aucho, Costa, Izazola and Plaza.
Nothing much should be expected from a team which relegated last season. They will try to finish in a respectable position this year. With a balance between young and experienced players, Churchill are ready to challenge the heavyweights. If the coach can really change their mindset, then Churchill have the ability to upset the big guns.