Roberto Mendes Da Silva (Beto)
Midfielder (2005-2011, 2013-14)
During the six years that he spent at Dempo in his first spell, Beto became the man the club turned to whenever they needed a flash of inspiration. A defence splitting pass, an inch perfect cross or a curling free-kick from just outside the box, Beto almost always delivered. He was the architect of many a Dempo triumph– which includes three national league titles – and when he left the club to join arch rivals Churchill Brothers in 2011, he set another record by becoming the first foreign player to win I-League titles with two different clubs. Beto’s success, primarily at Dempo, and later at Churchill Brothers, would seem tailor-made for a foreign player with exceptional skills, but when he landed in India his first season was a disaster. The Brazilian joined Mohun Bagan in 2004-05 but was found wanting as a striker, prompting a move to Dempo where coach Armando Colaco wanted him to succeed his late countryman Cristiano Junior. At Dempo, Beto came into his own, moulding a deadly partnership upfront with Nigerian striker Ranti Martins. But when Colaco saw something that nobody else did and moved him to a roving role in the midfield behind the strikers, the Brazilian re-discovered himself and surprised everyone else, becoming one of the most influential foreigners to have played in
India. Beto hit the ground running in his new role with the ‘freedom’ to wander as Dempo began their unstoppable rise to the top. He spotted openings easily, had almost a telepathic understanding with Martins upfront while also having the reassuring presence of Climax Lawrence to do the bulk of the defensive duties in the midfield. Beto scored goals at will too. When Dempo thrashed Air India 14-0 in a record I-League win at Fatorda in 2011, Martins grabbed the headlines with seven goals to his name but not many remember that Beto himself scored four. Beto’s influence stretched far beyond the playing field. Famously, during a crucial AFC Cup quarter-final away clash against Home United in Singapore, he took huge printouts of American writer Richard Bach’s words – “The ones who win are those who think they can” – and pasted them in the dressing room. Dempo then scripted history as they put it across Home United 4-3 and became the first Indian team to qualify for the AFC Cup semi-finals. Beto joined Churchill Brothers in 2011 after six hugely successful years with Dempo and helped the Red Machines finish third in the 2011-12 I-League, scoring nine goals. The next season, he netted 13 goals in Churchill’s triumphant march, before returning to Dempo and calling it a day at the end of the 2013-14 season. Undoubtedly, a Dempo legend, and of Indian football too!