Coming from a State that has just finished runner-up in the Santosh Trophy, and with a coach who guided Kerala to that silver, Josco FC may be under a bit of pressure when it lands in Indore for the second division I-League on Saturday.
“If there’s a team under pressure, it should be Eagles,” said M.M. Jacob, the Josco and Kerala coach, quietly pushing it away at the FACT Udyogamandal Stadium after his team’s last training session for the second division on Thursday. “It has a couple of players who were in our Santosh Trophy team.”
Not playing the long-drawn Santosh Trophy is probably a blessing for the Josco players, for they will be fresh for the Indore event. But, every time Jacob watches his boys in action, he is reminded of his Santosh Trophy side.
“Most of our players are not shooting at the goal — that was the problem with our State team and that’s the problem here too,” he said. “We want good strikers…our Indian players are not shooting at the goal because almost all the strikers in the I-League are foreigners.”
After being frequently overlooked by the big clubs, it’s clear that our strikers are losing confidence. With little exposure in the frontline at the top level, they are running out of ideas frequently when they enter the box.
But the arrival of Nigerian Felix Chidi, on loan from Goa’s Vasco, has raised the mood in the Josco camp.
“Felix looks good; am seeing him for the first time,” said Jacob, who missed a good part of his team’s training and preparation this year because of Kerala’s Santosh Trophy campaign.
With Mohammedan Sporting — a former giant from Kolkata which finished third and narrowly missed gaining promotion to the I-League last year — in its group, life is not going to be easy for Josco.
“But every team in the second division will be tough,” said Jacob. “In fact, the second is much tougher than the I-League, because everybody is desperate for promotion.”
Two years ago Josco FC, which is backed by the jewellery major Josco Group, was on a high when it emerged as Kerala’s champion club twice within the space of two months. The Kerala Football Association conducted the State clubs championship twice during that period and Josco emerged on top both times. But a little later, disciplinary problems within the team saw Josco disband the side before starting afresh last year.
“That earlier team was a very settled combination, this is not like that…it will take time,” said the veteran coach T.K. Chathunni, the team’s Technical Director.
The other two foreigners with the club, Nigerians Prince Monday (midfielder) and Osama bin Harrison (defender) have come from Golden Threads, also a former state inter-club champion which failed to get a second division berth this time.
Josco held National champion Services goalless in a pre-Santosh Trophy warm-up game and lost to Kerala by a lone goal in another match, but the team has been hit by injuries to key players. That is a bit of a worry because the Kochi side will be playing eight league matches in Indore.
“Our forward Azeem suffered a nose injury after a clash with the goalkeeper…he is a good striker. We expect him to play in the later stages, so we have included his name in the team,” said the coach.
Midfielder Ummer Farooq, who had to drop out of the Santosh Trophy camp after an injury, is the captain of the Josco team. He played for Mohammedan Sporting last year.
Two teams from each of the three groups will qualify for the second division’s main phase which will be held later.
Goalkeepers: A.V. Sabeesh, V.V. Pratheesh.
Defenders: Sudheesh Muttath, P.P. Riyaz, K.P. Nishd, T. Faizal, Osama bin Harrison Chegozie, Rinto Antony.
Midfielders: Prince Monday, Ummer Farooq (captain), M. Najesh, Nikhil Sabu, M. Shiju, P.M. Abhishek, K. Aneez, R. Tarun.
Forwards: Felix Chidi, T.P. Jayan, E.P. Jineesh, Stephen Lijo, K. Azeem.
Coach: M.M. Jacob. Asst. coach: T.A. Renjith. Technical Director: T.K. Chathunni. Manager: Sunny Paul.