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Sunny Singh: This monumental I-League win is a result of hard work and grit

Published at :March 17, 2023 at 1:32 AM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : I-League )

Sathvik Bharadwaj

The RoundGlass Punjab FC owner, head coach and Technical Director spoke on the club's success.

RoundGlass Punjab FC are the Champions of Hero I-League 2022-23 and the first I-League Club to get promoted to the Indian Super League (ISL). RGPFC won the I-League title with one match to spare at the national capital, New Delhi, beating Rajasthan United.

Speaking on the team’s fantastic season, Sunny Singh, owner RoundGlass Punjab FC said, “I am tremendously proud of my team. This monumental I-League win is a result of hard work, grit, and an affirmation that RoundGlass Punjab FC is on the right path to inspire the youth in India.

I believe sport has the power to transform lives and our Club is a stellar example of how, by nurturing the holistic well-being of players, we can put India on the international football map. As we gear up for the Indian Super League, I know they will take this dream forward to fruition.”

Fulfilling a united desire

RGPFC had a different feel and energy before the beginning of the I-League season. There was a strong desire to be the title winners, and with this goal they set out on the journey which turned out to be one for the history books.

They were representing the state of Punjab which boasts of a rich sporting history and had to follow the path of teams such as JCT Mills who have won the League before them. RGPFC are also the first and only representative of Punjab in the ISL.

Here’s the list of awards won by RGPFC players and coaches this I-League season:

  • Syed Abdul Rahim Award for the Best Coach of the Season – Staikos Vergetis, Head Coach
  • Top Scorer of the League with 16 goals – Luka Majcen
  • Hero of the League – Luka Majcen
  • Best Midfielder of the League – Juan Mera
  • Best Goalkeeper of the League (11 clean sheets) – Kiran Kumar Limbu

RGPFC were led in the field by their enigmatic Head Coach, Staikos Vergetis, who transformed the mindset of the players and nurtured a winning mentality into the dressing room. While the coach was leading the team in the field, the man leading the Club behind the scenes was Nikolas Topoliatis, Football Director of RoundGlass Punjab FC who was previously with legendary Greek club Olympiakos for 13 years.

He strategically put together a formidable side with some brilliant signings including the head coach and the coaching staff. He also lay emphasis on promoting youngsters from the RoundGlass Punjab Football Academy to the senior side. RGPFC played an attractive brand of football resonating the club’s ideology to inspire young children fall in love with the game.

Staikos had a wonderful coaching staff that included Strength and Conditioning Coach Nikolaos Tsagkatakis and Assistant Coach Dimitrios Kakkos who were brought along with him from Greece.

Nikolas Topoliatis speaks about the success

Speaking on the Club’s terrific performance, Nikolas Topoliatis, Technical Director of RoundGlass Punjab FC said, “This is an amazing achievement by the entire team - players, the coach and support staff. A big congratulations to all of them! I want to take this opportunity to thank the All India Football Federation and all the I-League teams for a great competitive season.

I also want to thank our Owner Sunny Singh for being the wind beneath our wings. His vision is our guiding light. With this victory, we have set the bar higher, and I promise our fans that we are going to work harder and bring them more high energy football.”

Shattering I-League records

The team’s sharp approach was clear from their marauding run in the season, racking up 52 points from 22 matches, 10 points clear of Sreenidi Deccan who finished in second place. They scored 45 goals, the highest in the League, and conceded just 16 times, second best in the league behind Gokulam Kerala, and kept 12 clean sheets.

They kept their home ground, Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula as a fortress remaining unbeaten in the season, securing 10 wins and drawing just once to Rajasthan United. They just lost twice in the whole season away from home to TRAU FC in Imphal and Sreenidi Deccan in Hyderabad.

RoundGlass Punjab FC gives huge importance to its Academy and to the development players by having a robust training system that provides youngsters with holistic development. This was evident in the senior team also as defender Tekcham Abhishek Singh, midfielder Manglenthang Kipgen and goalkeeper Jaskarenvir Singh were handed their senior I-League debuts. Abhishek Singh, in fact, scored in their 8-0 victory over Sudeva Delhi.

Players pick up individual league honours

The attack line was led by Slovenian Luka Majcen and Spaniard Juan Mera who created menace in the opposition and were deadlier as a duo. Luka ended up being the top scorer of the league with 16 goals, which is his highest in a single season in India. His all-round performance and the ability to lead the team from the front saw him being awarded with the Hero of the League title.

Juan Mera won the Best Midfielder of the League award having scored 10 goals, including a hat-trick against Sudeva Delhi at home, which is statistically his best season throughout his career. Bhutanese 'Sniper' Chencho Gyeltshen who came in the team in the January transfer window became a vital cog in the team in their push for the title. Experienced striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia also played his part for the team in the season.

The defensive record of the team was more impressive as they secured 12 clean sheets in total and conceded a meagre 16 goals. Goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu was in terrific form in the season and was awarded with the Best Goalkeeper of the League trophy for keeping 11 clean sheets. The goalkeepers were guided well by goalkeeping coach Vinay Singh.

Sturdy back-line

The defence in front of Kiran were also solid as they made it hard for opposition attackers to score or create chances. Led by their towering captain Aleksandar Ignjatovic, the defence were always on high alert when called upon. The young Mizo, Hmingthanmawia was calm and composed, Nongmaikapam Suresh Meitei and Deepak Devrani brought in their experience while the young wing backs, Khaiminthang Lhungdim, Huidrom Naocha Singh and Mohammed Salah were solid and also effectual while going forward.

Noacha Singh and Khaiminthang Lhungdim topped the League charts for defensive challenges with 315 and 301 challenges respectively with the hardworking midfielder Brandon Vanlalremdika coming third with 250. He was also effective going forward playing as the connecting link to the attackers.

The midfield of the team delivered all-around the season with Brandon Vanlalremdika leading the line. Freddy Lallawmawma and Ajay Chhetri were consistent throughout the season along with Ashis Pradhan, Samuel Lalmuanpuia, and U-20 India International Maheson Singh Tongbram, who played their parts along with Argentine midfielder Juan Carlos Nellar who was signed in January. Wingers, Khundongbam Krishananda Singh and Pranjal Bhumij offered pace in the flanks, making important contributions for the team.

Staikos Vergetis on his first experience in India

Speaking on the club’s historic win, Staikos Vergetis, head coach of RoundGlass Punjab FC said, “The I-League title winning run has been an amazing experience for me in my first year in India. I had the pleasure to manage a team of players who were disciplined, dignified, and showed maturity throughout the League.

I am very proud of all the players and the staff and thankful to the management for the trust they put in the team. It is a victory for Punjab too as this is the first team from here to participate in ISL and I hope this ushers in a revolution of football in the state.”

With the I-League season wrapped and ISL promotion secure, the team and everyone associated with it now look forward to the challenges starting with the Super Cup which begins on April 8th in Kerala. RGPFC are geared for more football action and bigger goals to achieve.