The finale is here and the Sudeva Delhi FC players — youngsters as well as the seasoned pros — are keen to end the long campaign on a high with a confidence-boosting win over a strong Aizawl FC. The I-League campaign brought about many great moments as well as lessons for the players, many of whom made their debuts this season.
Sudeva Delhi FC Media
Three months. Eighty nine days. Fourteen games. One brutal locked-in league season. How to condense and channel an entire experience — a debutant experience — into one final push. At the final training session, coach Chencho Dorji’s words were monosyllabic: win.
But winning will not be easy, especially when you go up against the toughest team in the group, Aizawl FC, a team that held SDFC to a 1-1 draw in their previous encounter and, barring a hiccup or two, has looked brilliant on the pitch. Not too many of the players in the camp are too concerned about the way they play though. The idea is to finish on a high, and the only way to do that is to play it like it is: the final game of a long tough campaign.
“It has been tough for everyone of course, to be away from families for so long, and, because of safety protocols, stay locked in. Training sessions and gym work aside there has hardly been any opportunity to interact with the outside world. As important as it is, it is tough also,” Dorji says, “but I must commend the players, the management and everyone involved for doing a good job of it. Everyone came into this blind and we improvised well.”
For the players the experience of this season has been novel. As much because of the fact that it is a first in a bio bubble, but also because they have been part of a team that has made its own debut in the league. And adapted and learnt things the hard way while doing it.
“We came into the season with the largest squad,” Dorj says “and many players had never played the I-League. Now, all but one of them has got minutes in the league this season. I can’t think of many clubs that can boast of that.”
The debutants include Sudeva academy products, Lunkim Seigoulun Khongsai, Vanlalzahawma, Mohit Singh, Ansh Gupta, Mohit Mittal, Shubho Paul, Sachin Jha, Sinam Maichel Singh and Phairembam Rostam Singh. Boys who have got their first taste of professional football at the highest level playing for the club they started off with in the first place. Inasmuch as this is cause for celebration it also comes with caution. All of them know how lucky they are to have been given this platform and opportunity at such a young age and will learn from the experience greatly. The learning curve is steep and will only get steeper from here.
No one knows this better than SDFC assistant coach Pushpender Kundu. “It has been a fantastic season, both for the team and me,” he says. “Being a Delhite, it has been a huge responsibility for me to coach this club. I would like to thank a few people for giving me and many young players from Delhi, North-East, Maharashtra, and other parts of the country the opportunity to play at such a high level of football.”
“Tomorrow, we will be playing our last game, and we want to finish it with a victory.”