Club Profile: New Indian Super League potential entrants RoundGlass Punjab FC
RGPFC beat Sreenidi Deccan in a closely-fought title race.
RoundGlass Punjab FC stormed their way to win the 2022-23 I-League title with a dominant 4-0 win over Rajasthan United. In doing so, the Punjab club also made history. They stand to became the first I-League club to secure promotion to the Indian Super League (ISL) by winning Indian football’s second division.
While not yet made official, based on the AFC roadmap, promotion is subject to fulfillment of all financial criteria as agreed upon by all stakeholders.
RGPFC have been extremely dominant in the I-League this season. They’ve won 15 out of their 21 games (one game remains) – having lost just two matches all season. Moreover, they have scored 43 goals over that period and produced some scintillating football to cruise towards the league title.
Their impressive achievement means we will get to see RoundGlass Punjab play in the ISL as its 12th team next season. They will join a rare few clubs to have played in both divisions in India – alongside the likes of Bengaluru FC, ATK Mohun Bagan, Jamshedpur FC, and East Bengal FC.
League: I-League (to be promoted to ISL)
City: Mohali, Punjab
Stadium: Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula
Head Coach: Staikos Vergetis
Last Season’s Performance – First
RoundGlass Punjab completely dominated the I-League campaign, getting big wins over the likes of Mohammedan Sporting, Rajasthan United as well as Sudeva Delhi FC.
Punjab was able to clinch the I-League title with one game in hand and managed to pip the likes of Sreenidi Deccan as well as defending champions Gokulam Kerala to the championship.
At the start of the season, Punjab roped in Greek manager Staikos Vergetis to steer their ship. The manager had nearly a decade-long experience in football management and spent the entirety of his coaching career in Greece and Cyprus.
Vergetis started his coaching career at the Greek first-division club Asteras Tripolis and worked with them for three years. He then moved to Cyprus to manage Nea Salamina and only survived one season with them. The Greek coach then had short management stints at Tripolis, Niki Volos, and OF Ierapetra before joining Punjab
Nikolaos Topoliatis has been the club director for two and a half years and was pivotal in bringing in head coach Staikos Vergetis and assistant coach Dimitrios Kakkos to the club. He also played a crucial role in building the team that went on to win the I-League title this season, paving way for RoundGlass Punjab to play in the country’s top-flight football league.
Goalkeeping Coach: Vinay Singh, Strength & Conditioning Coach: Nikolaos Tsagkatakis
Goalkeepers: Kiran Limbu, Abujam Penand Singh, Ravi Kumar, Jaskaranvir Singh, Ayush Deshwal
Defenders: Abhishek Singh, Deepak Devrani, Aleksander Ignjatovic, Suresh Meitei, Valpuia, Tarif Akhand, Mohammed Salah, Naocha Singh (on loan)
Midfielders: Sunil Soren, Ranjan Soren, Manglenthan Kipgen, Freddy Lallawmawma, Ajay Chhetri (on loan), Maheson Singh, Juan Nellar, Shankar Sampingiraj, Ashis Pradhan, Khaimin Lhlungdim.
Forwards: Brandon Vanlalremdika, Boby Singh, Chncho Gytelshen, Krishnananda Singh, Juan Mera Gonzalez, Luka Majcen, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, Ashangbam Singh, Pranjal Bhumij (on loan)
- Top five highlights from AIFF League Committee’s meeting on May 1
- Four positions Kerala Blasters need to fix this summer
- I-League Second Division 2023: Teams which qualified for final round
- Yan Dhanda reveals his favourite Indian players
- RoundGlass Punjab FC boasts an impressive foreigner core – including prolific forwards Luka Majcen and Juan Mera. They have a lot of quality and unpredictability within their frontline, which helps create a variety of attacking movements and a slick flow to their attacks.
- RGPFC also maintained an excellent defensive record in the I-League this season, keeping 11 clean sheets from 21 games and conceding just 16 goals. They have a compact, undeterred backline and goalkeeper Kiran Limbu is a stunning shot-stopper – adding to the team’s strength.
- They have a few players with plenty of ISL experience (like Bikash Yumnam, Ravi Kumar, and Bidyananda Singh) that can help provide more depth to the squad.
- The majority of the Punjab side does not have much ISL experience – including the foreign players. This could prove to be a bit of a stumbling block as they’ll need to adapt to the change in intensity and playing style.
- Even head coach Vergetis does not know what it takes to manage in the ISL and will be a relative newcomer to the division.
Key Players to Watch
The Punjab FC skipper was a major driving force responsible for their title success. He scored 14 goals for them and has been constantly performing at a high level in the I-League for years. Not only can he score key goals, but Majcen also has the ability to set things up and is adept to play in a variety of positions if required.
He is agile in the final third and creates a lot of trouble with his off-the-ball movement and distribution ability. Fans can probably get a better understanding of how menacing he can be in the upcoming Super Cup.
Huidrom Naocha Singh
The electric left-back was one of his side’s best players in their title-winning season. Not just that, Naocha was also among the most promising defenders to come out of the campaign. The hard-working defender put in his everything in all matches, showing the urgency to run the extra mile if required to get things done.
He topped the charts for most successful key challenges (315), interceptions (138), and possession recoveries (169) for any player in the I-League last season. Singh played a key role in helping Punjab keep 11 clean sheets last season and will aim to do even better in the ISL.
Juan Mera Gonzalez
Like Majcen, Juan Mera has also been a menacing factor in Punjab’s attack this season. He scored 10 goals in the league, partnering with his fellow forward well.
Gonzalez can be a livewire with his movement in the final third and is dangerous with his final delivery as well. Indeed, the Spaniard is a set-piece specialist who loves flicking in dangerous crosses to create chances. His playing style can help him thrive in the ISL and be a major force for the Warriors.
Being initially created in 2005 as the ‘Minerva Football Academy’ in Punjab, RGPFC have come a long way to acquire ISL promotion. They operated as Minerva Punjab FC in the I-League and even won the 2017-18 season in stunning fashion. The club has also earned a reputation for producing excellent young talents from Punjab, who have gone on to feature for the Indian national team.
Ahead of the 2020-21 I-League season, the club was acquired by RoundGlass Sports to become RoundGlass Punjab FC. They finished the first season under new owners in second place after the league stages and then also missed out on the league title in the 2021/22 campaign.
That is before RGPFC clinched the current I-League title to go on to secure ISL promotion. The club has come a long way in its 18-year history. They’ve grown from a small youth academy to a team to have brought glory days back to the Punjab football scene. They’re set to become the first Punjabi club to play in the ISL too and are currently the perfect blueprint to follow for any aspiring club in their state.
What to Expect in ISL
The last side to move ‘upwards’ from the I-League to the ISL was East Bengal. They’re yet to impress and have produced bottom finishes in recent seasons. RoundGlass Punjab FC might have been a force in the I-League, but the team needs to work overtime to avoid the Red & Gold Brigaders’ fate.
Some of their foreign players might be well-equipped to impress in the ISL, but the same can’t be said about the Indian ones. Most of their Indian players have a bad history in the ISL while others have never played in it. They’ll probably have to recruit smartly and sign hungry, unpredictable players to make an impact next season.
But RGPFC could have a slow start in the ISL due to their overall inexperience and should need time to adapt to the league. A playoffs position will probably be very tough to secure, but the work of their management over the next few months should determine if that is possible.