Sitting safe in mid-table, the real test for Sudeva Delhi FC would be to keep themselves motivated for the rest of the campaign. Since there is nothing to lose, and nothing to win as well, the players’ character would be tested now, feels Gursimrat Singh Gill.

Sudeva Delhi FC Media

“I have an alternate theory,” Gursimrat Singh Gill says. “I believe that your character isn’t just tested when you are up against the odds. It is tested equally when you have nothing to lose and nothing to gain. It’s when you are faced with that kind of absurd situation that your true personality as a footballer, as a professional, comes through. Do what you are hired to do.”

Gill is speaking to us the night before their second game of  Phase 2 of the I-League, a rematch against NEROCA at the Kalyani Stadium. In the first Phase, the loss to NEROCA started a troubling slide that resulted in Sudeva Delhi FC finishing in the bottom half of the table. That game came under similar circumstances as the one coming up next. In that, Sudeva played NEROCA after a break period — one they went into having beaten Chennai City handsomely.

Asked if the 10-day break is, unlike what was initially assumed, debilitating for players, Gill waves the thought away. “It wasn’t the break,” he says. “If you remember, we played Aizawl after the break in the first phase. It was a very tough game against a very tough side, and I would say in retrospect that it was a very precious hard-earned point.”

Gill also emphasises that this time around against NEROCA, the mood in the camp is vastly different. First off, there is that absurd situation where the club is placed in a position where they cannot challenge for the title but also cannot get relegated. Mid-table doesn’t begin to define this. The second is a shift in mood in the camp.

“Everyone is very pumped. The league is in its final stages now. It has been tough staying in a biosecure bubble, and with very little to do outside of the football. Everyone is suddenly energetic and pumped now. We just want to put in some strong performances, sign off on a real high and go home with this positive energy. It will be a good way to end a hard season.”

A reflection of this mood came via coach Chencho Dorji’s pre-match tactical briefing. Usually heavily detailed and focussed, this time around it consisted mostly of simple pointers. The coach also emphasised and tried to lift the mood with talk about how Kalyani Stadium has, so far been good to the team. Sudeva have played at the stadium five times now and have registered a win, two draws and two losses at the venue. Despite the statistics heavily tilting towards the negative, Dorji felt it was the performances more than the results that have been good at the venue. 

Additionally, there is a motivation for revenge. NEROCA, who upset Sudeva in the first phase, winning 2-0, are battling relegation. In the second phase, they have looked out of sorts losing both games to Indian Arrows (3-0) and Aizawl (1-0). Assistant coach Pushpender Kundu highlighted the fact that this could play in the club’s favour. 

“They are a very good team,” Kundu said. “Their position on the table does not reflect their quality and I’m sure they will come all out tomorrow. We have prepared our boys for that. I hope our boys take revenge for the previous loss.”

Gill does not take the bait to over dramatise what is undoubtedly an important event anyway. He knows that the team under pressure to deliver are the ones battling relegation, not those safe from it in mid-table. He reiterates his point: “Real character comes out now. It is when you have nothing to gain that you have to show up at your best.”