The mood in the Sudeva Delhi FC camp was buoyant, but also realistic, after the 1-0 loss to Mohammedan Sporting in the 2021 Hero I-League opener. For Coach Chencho Dorji, and the team, the game provided valuable early-season lessons. Read on for all the post-match reactions from Kolkata.

By Sudeva Delhi FC Media 

KOLKATA: A characteristically calm Chencho Dorji clearly outlined both the positives and the lessons to be learned from Sudeva Delhi FC’s first league game. “This is the very first game of the competition and, for me, it’s good that I got to know a lot of things so early,” the coach told us back at the team hotel. 

Among the positives from 90 minutes against Mohammedan Sporting Club was how a young Sudeva squad proved many commentators wrong on the physicality front. Questions had been asked about how an all-Indian squad would match up in this department. Many of those questions were answered by Sudeva on January 9 at the YBK Stadium at Salt Lake in Kolkata, the setting for many of Indian football’s most celebrated moments in the past. 

Four I-league debutantes lined up to face the legendary Black Panthers, with their 130-year history and a squad full of experienced campaigners. 

“In terms of implementing the tactical plan that we had, the boys tried fully well,” the Bhutanese head coach added. “The players who debuted today performed very well. Even William (Pauliankhum, whose missed interception resulted in the only goal of the game) had a decent game overall. For me, to go forward with these boys, it gives me a lot of confidence. The goal came from a lapse in concentration but we were looking good for large parts of the game. This losing game will teach us a lot.” 

Elsewhere in the bio-bubble, central defender Gursimrat Gill, 23, was in sync with the gaffer. Signed on a two-year contract from Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), Gill was one of three former BFC boys to play their first competitive game for Sudeva. 

“The way I see it we weren’t unlucky, but the other team were lucky,” he said. “Up against a legacy club, in their city, we might have gone into the game as the underdog but didn’t look like that for the most part. The difference today was maturity. The Mohammedan players are more experienced and were more aware. They caught us out of position, after a stoppage, restarted quickly and made us pay. But be sure we won’t let the same thing happen again. We’ll learn quickly.” 

Gill started the game alongside another signing from BFC, Sairuat Kima. He went on to add a bit of analysis that hints at a bond starting to develop between the Sudeva boys. 

“William had a wonderful game apart from that one mistake from which we conceded,” said Gill, underlining how fine the margin between the two sides was. “But it wasn’t his mistake alone. We all took it lightly and that’s what resulted in the goal. As a defensive unit you train to always expect mistakes and look to cover your teammates (when these mistakes happen). It was a collective lapse of awareness and positioning. We might have started slow but we will build from here. As the games go on we will get more settled.” 

Gill also made it a point to congratulate the team’s I-League first-timers — midfielders Ansh Gupta, Vanlalzahawma “Zoma”, Lunkim Seigoulun “Gogo” Khongsai and full back Pauliankhum. “It’s a big moment for them,” he said. “No one can take that away. They’re I-League players now.” 

It’s a tag that Ansh, and the others, now carry with pride. The central midfielder had a solid game but added that it wasn’t easy. “Yes, the I-League is a big stage but I think we went into the game pretty confident and positive. Getting some good early touches and passes helped me get in the groove,” said Ansh. “If I start well, I don’t feel the pressure. Had I made a couple of mistakes in the first 10 minutes it would’ve been harder to cope. Maybe our intensity (against Mohammedan) was a little lower than it should have been but our spirits are high and, I am sure, we will do better in the next outing.” 

Sudeva Delhi FC next take on the Indian Arrows on 14 Jan 2021 at 4 pm. Catch all our 2021 Hero I-League games on the 1Sports network (available on all major cable and DTH platforms. Click here for info on your service provider). We are the national capital’s first, and only, I-League club and we need you to build the football movement in our city. Sign up now to become a member of your club. Follow Sudeva Delhi FC on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Be a part of this exciting new chapter in Delhi’s football story!    

Picture: Vaibhav Raghunandan