The Manipur outfit's tactician reflects on the club's first season in the top flight.
At the start of the season no one would have held out a candle saying NEROCA FC will be vying for the title. But it has been one of those seasons in the Hero I-League where fancied teams are playing catch up to unexpected pacesetters. The team according to Coach Gift Raikhan has ‘proven we belong here’ in the top tier of Indian Football.
“As a new team in the League, we took it as a challenge to put up our best front. I think we have justified our promotion to the I-League. We have proven we belong here,” Gift mentioned in one breath.
Any new journey will bring its own set of challenges, but what counts is how you respond to them. Gift’s boys stood up tall and how. “What we did in the 2nd division is in the past. The I-League is a different ball game. You have to live in the present and take each day as it comes.”
“Yes it is the top tier but you can’t let yourselves be bogged down by the occasion. Then you are doomed from the start,” he cautioned.
With 9 wins and 4 draws from their 17 matches so far, NEROCA FC have had a fairly consistent run this season. “Apart from a few signings, most of the squad stay the same. So the understanding, continuity and the consistency has paid off for us,” Gift further states attributing the success to the management retaining and nurturing almost the same set of boys.
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The locals have also thrown their weight behind the team with crowds thronging to the stadium, setting attendance records in the process. “It is a humbling experience. All the love and affection we get is beyond words. They also expect a lot from us and there is certainly no limit to human expectations.”
“We fully understand the sentiments of the people but there are certain limitations to every football team, we are just trying our best to match up with them,” he added.