Former Gokulam Kerala and Churchill Brothers head coach Santiago Varela will lead the team this season.
Club Name: Sreenidi Deccan FC
Nickname: The Deccans
Year Founded: 2015
Home Ground: Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy International Cricket Stadium (proposed)
Owners: Sreenidi Group
Head Coach: Fernando Santiago Varela
The club was founded six years ago in January, 2015. The club was, however, formally launched in 2021 by Visakhapatnam’s sports minister Muttamsetti Srinivas Rao. In June 2020, AIFF issued an invitation for bids (for induction of a new club to the I-League).
The club received a spot in the I-League in August 2020, after their bid to feature in the league was accepted by the All India Football Federation. Till last year, they participated in the U-13 Hero Sub Junior League.
The club’s kits were launched by the Visakhapatnam Port Trust chairman K Ramamohana Rao.
The Head Coach
Sreenidi Deccan appointed Fernando Santiago Varela in April. The tactician is a widely known and successful face in Indian football. The league is also well-known to him.
Varela was previously associated with Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala. For the latter, he won the Kerala Premier League (2018). In 2019, the Gokulam side went on to clinch the Durand Cup, after defeating both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the semi-final and the final, respectively.
The Spaniard almost won the I-League with Churchill Brothers in the 2020/21 season, only losing out to Gokulam Kerala on goal-difference. The side, however, managed to stay unbeaten in the first round of the competition.
Varela will be looking forward for a memorable debut I-League season with the Deccans.
Building from scratch was not an easy task for the newcomers. However, they have put together a number of talented players ahead of the season. Some of their notable signings ahead of this season are Ubaid CK, Arijit Bagui, Samad Ali Mallick, Phalguni Singh, Girik Khosla, Mohamed Awal and David Castaneda Munoz.
They also have some brilliant Indian forwards in the likes of Malsawmzuala and Suraj Rawat. Needless to say, the Deccans are bolstering their squad, aiming to provide competition to the other clubs in the I-League.
David Castaneda Munoz
Castaneda became the first acquisition of Sreenidi Deccan FC when the club began to assemble their foreign contingent. The forward, 26, has spent most of his career in the Colombian league system.
He has plied his trade at clubs like Real San Andreas, Leones, Cortulua, Boyaca Patriotas FC, Atletico Nacional, Fortaleza CF and Zakho. He had scored 34 goals in 142 matches before arriving in India.
The Ghanaian became the club’s second foreign recruit. Mohamed Awal was the captain of Gokulam Kerala before he signed for the Deccans. The 33-year-old began his career through the ranks of Feyenoord Academy in Ghana.
In his career so far, he has played for clubs like Wolkite City, Raja Casablanca, Asante Kotoko, Arsenal Tula, Al-Ansar and others. Last season, he played 14 matches for Gokulam Kerala FC.
Adding to this, the defender also featured for the Ghana national team six times and has a goal to his name. His inclusion will solidify their defence.
Ubaid CK: The 31-year-old goalkeeper has played for clubs like Viva Kerala, Dempo, Air India, ONGC, FC Kerala, East Bengal and Gokulam Kerala.
He has prior experience of clinching the Durand Cup, which he won under the tutelage of Varela in 2019. Thus, it is expected that working with the former boss will not be a problem for Ubaid.
Goalkeepers: Ubaid CK, Shibinraj Kunniyil, Harsh Rajesh Patil.
Defenders: Dinesh Singh, Samad Ali Mallick, Shahbaaz Khan, Sunil Bathala, Sriram B, Lalchungnunga, Bijay Chetri, Arijit Bagui, Mohammed Salah, Mohamed Awal.
Midfiedlers: Muthu Irulandi Mayakkanan, Shibil Muhammed, Phalguni Singh, Rahul KP, Umasankar M, Lalromawia, Vanlalbiaa Chhangte, Vineethkumar Velmurugan, Girik Khosla, Mayosing Khongreiwoshi, Rosenberg Gabriel.
Forwards: David Castaneda Munoz, Suraj Rawat, Malsawmzuala, Fredsan Marshall.
The club is owned by the Sreenidhi Group. The chairman of the new club is KT Mahhe. Serving as the technical director of Sreenidi Deccan FC is Fabio Nunes Ferreira.
Style of Play
The head coach, Fernando Santiago Varela prefers playing in a 4-3-3 formation. According to their tentative squad, Sreenidi may abide by the same. The team have a fast player on the left flank in Rahul KP. Even Girik Khosla can operate from the flanks.
They also possess tough midfielders in the form of Phalguni Singh and Shibil Muhammed along with a trusted forward in David Castaneda spearheading their attack. Hence wing-based football will be something to expect from the Deccans.
The Deccans have proposed to use the DYSSR Stadium. It is a multi-purpose stadium in Visakhapatnam used mainly for cricket matches. It has a capacity of 27,500.
The club has a leading football academy in Hyderabad. Here, young players are provided with state of the art coaching facilities. The colts receive the guidance of certified coaches who tend to work on their development. The club used to participate in the Sub Junior League and will continue to do so.
In February, the club was running trials for different age-groups and received 600+ registrations. Thus, apart from the Sub Junior League, they may also field teams in the Junior and the Elite leagues in the future.
Road to I-League
The story of Sreenidi Deccan is somewhat different to that of the other clubs. Clubs are usually promoted from the lower ranks to the I-League. But, in this case, the Deccans bid for a spot in the league.
They were accepted as a new club in August 2020. This is their debut season in a superior division (senior team), I-League.
Behind The Scenes
The entrance of Sreenidi Deccan to the I-League means that after a long time, a club from Hyderabad will feature in the league. It will only add to the upbringing of budding talents from the region. Their commendable work in holding trials for their youth teams will promote the sport even further in the states of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh.
Hyderabad have previously given birth to many legendary footballers like Tulsidas Balaram, Syed Nayeemuddin, Md. Habib, Shabbir Ali, Akbar and more. The state was also known as the pilgrimage of Indian football after Kolkata once. However, in recent times, we have hardly seen players emerging from the state. Can Sreenidi bring the lost glory back?
How will they fare?
They have a commendable side which comprises players who have plied their trade for notable Indian clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Gokulam Kerala. The coach himself knows the league well, which will work in the favour of the club.
As debutants, Sreenidi will be expected to put up tough competition to their league rivals and finish as high in the table as possible.
They will play their first match on December 27 against NEROCA FC.