After opting out of the tip-tier league, Dempo are beginning to see the results of investing in a thriving academy.
Dempo Sports Club’s success at the national level can be measured by their record five league titles between 2005 and 2012 when they were unarguably the best club in India. 1t’s a record that has made everyone envious, and even though the club has now opted out of the top-tier, the record has remained intact.
Protesting the roadmap that made Indian Super League (ISL) the top-tier league and relegated I-League to the second division, Dempo, along with Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa, opted out. They don’t hit national headlines anymore but haven’t stopped tasting success, even if it’s at the youth level.
Dempo’s time and energy is now mostly spent at the Residential Football Academy at Ela in Old Goa. They have dominated the state leagues and all three teams qualified for the AIFF Sub-Junior, Junior and Elite League this season. With such a strong foundation in place, club chairman Shrinivas Dempo wasn’t surprised to see the results.
“The fact that we have invested so much of money, time, energy on this segment, I think has paid us, not fully but started to pay us off. The vision is much more bigger and broader, but I think this is a good beginning.“
Former Technical Director Karnagaran Naidoo from South Africa was instrumental in setting up the Academy. Katz, as he was popularity known, sowed the seeds for Dempo before he passed away in December.
Last season, only the under-16 side managed to qualify and take part in the all-India playoffs. They reached the main round but were eventually knocked out in the semifinals. This time, Dempo have done much better. They won the GFA U-14 and tasted success with the U-16 team too, both remaining unbeaten in the league.
Dempo have now qualified for all the I-League junior tournaments from the zonal phase, remaining unbeaten in the Sub-Junior League and Junior League. In the Elite League (U-18), they lost only once and finished second as FC Goa topped the group with a better head-to-head record.
Even at the all-India level, Dempo have made a contribution. Four of their players- Shameek Vas, Delmon Rebello,Shayne Don Afonso and Clarance Fernandes- were called for national camps. Shameek vas even included in the India squad for the AFCU-16 championships and the SAFF cup.
“Almost four or five of our boys have joined the India camp. Our vision in general is to see that the same team, our U-20 team, qualifies for Second Division I-League and go into I-League.” said Dempo.
They have entrusted that responsibility to their new technical director Anju Turambekar, one of the first woman in Asia to now direct a men’s football club. Dempo are also targeting to improve their three-star rating to five-star among the AIFF academies. They have also planned to introduce the pay-in model in the next two years and are already getting inquiries.
“We are working on that now and once we are absolutely sure, we will start because the pay in boys will have different expectations. Once we stabilise completely, the we will have the pay model,” said Dempo.
Having impressed many this season, the club has already started planning for the next. A talent identification camp for the AIFF under-13 Sub-Junior League and GFA league will be held next month at Duler and Nagoa.
“Katz laid a very strong foundation and was extremely disciplined. He built a culture of unity and developed the coaches. A lot of credit goes to him. Now Anju is building systematically on that,” said Dempo.
The club may be out of sight at the national level, for now, but at least in Goa, Dempo have not been out of mind.
Reap What you Sow – Flavio Lopes (TOI)