The Mizoram stopper is building on a strong partnership with Gursimrat Gill as the foundation for Sudeva’s I-League campaign.

Sudeva Delhi FC Media

When Sudeva Delhi FC take on Churchill Brothers in the I-League tomorrow, the game will be unique for many reasons. It will be an encounter between the newest entrants of the league and a club which has been here in this league, the longest. Two places separate them on the table, but the one regard where they are evenly matched is in the goals conceded. The Goan club has let in two — both in their season opener against Indian Arrows — and so have the Delhi side. It is the second meanest total of the season so far.

“I didn’t know that,” Sairuat Kima. “I knew we were doing well, but I didn’t know that fact.” Statistics matter to the Aizawl born 23-year-old. Performances and games are key. One half of a central defensive pair that has looked solid for the most part, Kima is keen to repeat strong performances against a Churchill side who have looked favourites, for the most part, this season.

Churchill’s lynchpin in the strikeforce has been their Honduran striker Clayvin Zuniga, who has scored four goals already this season. The man has experience in La Liga and has looked imperious this season. As many eyes as there will be on the game, most will be on Zuniga. But Kima is unfazed by all this statistical conjecture. Having played with and against great Indian and foreign strikers in his time at Bengaluru FC, Kima has learnt to treat all his opponents just the same.

“It doesn’t matter who is from where. Who is a foreign player, or an Indian player,” he says. “You have to treat them all with the same respect. It can be a superstar player with lots of experience or a debutant. But as a defender, if you cannot have different attitudes towards them. You have to have confidence in your abilities, your teammates’ and trust that you can execute your plans perfectly.”

And when it comes to trust, Kima has full faith is not his own but also that of his partner in the middle Gursimrat Singh Gill. The duo played together in Bengaluru and have a natural synergy that has translated itself on to the pitch.  

“We are different players, but we understand our strengths and weaknesses well,” Kima says. “In a nutshell, I think, he is a more aggressive player with a natural tendency to go into tackles higher up as well as play the ball. I am more conservative. It is a good balance to have.”

Kima acknowledges that the game against a free-scoring Churchill will be a tough one, but also sees simple routes to victory. Defensive solidity and tactical astuteness are important. For a guy who doesn’t care much for statistics, there is one that he does have an eye on. The clean sheet.

“If you ask me, as a defender, I want a clean sheet and a win,” Kima says. “But a clean sheet is very important. Winning 4-1 is good, but I’d rather win 1-0 and have that clean sheet. If we can defend well tomorrow, we have a great chance. That is the foundation to build from.” 

Sudeva Delhi FC takes on Churchill Brothers at 1400 hrs on January 25, 2021, at the Mohun Bagan ground. Tune in to the 1sports network to support your club.