I-League side North Eastern Re-Organising Cultural Association (NEROCA) FC announced the extension of head coach Gift Raikhan's stay at the club on Friday. Gift Raikhan was in-charge of the Imphal-based side in the 2019-20 season as well.
Second Chance for Gift Raihkan
Gift Raikhan had an up-to-snuff playing career with short stints with several Indian football clubs. He played as a left-back and earned his first professional contract with BMFC (1999-2000), joined Churchill Brothers for the next two seasons (2000-2002).
Gift Raikhan moved to HAL for another two seasons (2002-2004) before spending a single season at Indian Bank. (2004-2005). He returned to Goa on loan to Vasco SC from Indian Bank before rejoining BMFC on yet another loan spell. Raikhan also got the chance to feature in the I-League in its debut season in 2007-08 with Pune FC.
After playing a few unofficial games with Pune FC, Raikhan joined the Red Lizards as a youth team coach. He steered his way to the technical staff of the main team in the 2013-14 season as an assistant coach.
He had coached the U12, U17 and U20 sides of Pune FC before his initial first-team appointment. Gift Raikhan returned to his home state in the 2015-16 season and took charge of NEROCA FC in the Manipur State League and I-League 2nd Division. After a series of good performances and encouraging finishes, NEROCA eventually won the I-League 2nd Division in 2016-17 and got promoted to the I-League under Gift Raikhan.
NEROCA surprised every side with their exploits in the I-League debut under Gift Raikhan. They finished second in the standings, three points behind champions Minerva Punjab in the 2017-18 I-League. However, NEROCA failed to retain him with rising wages and Gift Raikhan took charge of Aizawl FC before joining Gokulam Kerala for a short stint.
Raikhan was called back by NEROCA FC in the 2019-20 season as both parties failed to make much impact in the league without working together. However, Raikhan has failed to replicate his success in his second stint at NEROCA so far. NEROCA finished 9th in the I-League 2019-20 table a the league got suspended at the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gift Raikhan has to play a crucial part in scouting for the 2020-21 season and prove himself with a convincing performance as the former Manipur-based left-back gets his second chance at the club. NEROCA FC are also in touch with several players from the Manipur State League and Calcutta Football League as teams start building their roster for the 2020-21 season.