Sudeva Delhi FC coach Chencho Dorji has moulded the young side to play a particular style of football that involves wresting control of the proceedings. A system of play that exudes confidence, as well as fearlessness. A tough test awaits against the in-form Gokulam Kerala FC, but the players are more than ready.

Sudeva Delhi FC Media

Big games need big performances — a sporting axiom that has withstood the test of time, technology and television. With just two games in the first part of the season left to play, Sudeva Delhi FC is one point off the top six places — which will secure them a berth in the top half of the second round of fixtures. A loss to second from bottom NEROCA has hurt the team but not completely erased their chances. 

“Far from it,” coach Chencho Dorji had said in the aftermath of that loss. “We don’t need to do mathematics. We need to play football and win our next two games and we will be in the top six.” 

And to start off, that involves playing fourth-placed Gokulam Kerala FC, a team on a spectacular run of form, with just one loss in their last five games. 

While speaking to the team before the game the coach stressed a few important words, constantly invoking them in every training session or tactical session over the last few days. The words: belief and spirit. 

“I think we have a great chance here to create history,” he said, “not because we are a new club etc etc, but because we are now at a low point and we are in a tough situation and when we turn it around it will be a huge lift off.” 

Dorji maintains that there were small mistakes made against NEROCA that led to the team dropping points, but it is also clear that in this team game, there can be no finger-pointing at all.

With a squad full of fresh faces and young players lies the imminent danger of inexperience, and while that inexperience has shown itself upon occasions with game management, Dorji insists on persisting with a similar thought process, unwilling to compromise on the brand of football he thinks the club should play. “We believe in our football. And we will continue to play this way.”

It is exactly what the Gokulam Kerala coach, Vincenzo Alberto Annese expects from the team. In the club’s official press conference to the media, Annesse was full of praise for Sudeva. “Sudeva is a strong team when holding the ball,” he said. “As a team, their mentality is to play with confidence. Their skipper (Kean Lewis) is among the top players in the league. They might have some difficulties in defence, but still, it is going to be a tough game.”

Assistant coach Pushpender Kundu — a man with a storied and long professional career — has simple advice for the players who will take the pitch tomorrow, one he followed throughout his career. “You have to play every match like it is a final,” he says, “at least that is the way I have always played it.”

Kundu’s constant words of encouragement — from training sessions, a pre-match warm-up or even at halftime — is simple. Play with heart, not in fear. He is aware that the team goes into the game tomorrow with a win necessary not just to stay in the race, but also as a boost for morale and repeats this advice for anyone interested. “Durr ke nahi khelna,” he says and then repeats, “Do not play in fear. Take the ball, pass the ball, move. Don’t think about the result. Just go and play good football and everything will follow.”