Indian Football Season Review 2017-18: NEROCA FC
Written by: Manas Pratim Kashyap
The Northeastern Indian side had a fairytale run in their inaugural I-League season.
“Football, like blood, flows in the veins of the people”, remarked Renedy Singh some weeks back, as the former India international footballer spoke about the significance of football in his homeland, Manipur.
What started as a new and inspiring journey, ended as nothing less than a heartbreak for the Orange Army from Manipur. But North East Re-Organizing Cultural Association Football Club (better known by their abbreviated name NEROCA FC) made the country’s footballing fraternity utterly proud of their fantastic display, finishing second behind champions Minerva Punjab FC in the recently concluded I-League season which went down to the wire. In the process, they also entered the history books as the first club from Manipur to compete in India’s most established football league.
Coming to the inaugural Hero Super Cup, NEROCA FC fought valiantly against Kerala Blasters FC in the pre-quarterfinal turning down a 0-2 deficit and grind out a 3-2 win. However, Sunil Chhetri’s hattrick helped Bengaluru FC trounce NEROCA 3-1 to end their Super Cup hopes.
Fact Sheet for Indian Season 2017-18
Season Finished: 3rd
Games Played: 20
Win %: 50
Apart from participating in the Manipur State League(MSL), NEROCA FC took to the pitch in pre-season friendlies against a couple of ISL clubs and the state champions from Sikkim. While they lost by narrow margins to NorthEast United FC (2-0) and ATK (2-1), the Orange Brigade romped United Sikkim FC 5-1.
Top 3 Performances
1. Gokulam Kerala FC 0-3 NEROCA FC (Report and highlights)
2. NEROCA FC 2-1 Chennai City FC (Report and highlights)
3. Indian Arrows 0-2 NEROCA FC (Report and highlights)
Manager's Report Card
For Gift Raikhan and his boys, this season was one hell of a humdinger. They were so near yet so far from winning the coveted crown in their debut season. The team had a good composition of domestic players (most of them from Manipur itself) and overseas signings and the gaffer instilled a nice touch of understanding, continuity and consistency to get the train going. Gaining promotion from the 2nd division league into the top tier, vying for the championship until the last day and finally finishing 2nd above all the top horses, Gift Raikhan’s NEROCA FC has certainly proven that it was no fluke.
Lessons to be learned
Everybody learns from their past experiences for each particular experience teaches a lesson. So NEROCA FC must build up to a fresh season. It is all about holding one's nerves in crucial matches like those against the giant Kolkata clubs or NorthEastern derbies. The team management must try to retain the core of the first team from this season to avoid another Aizawl FC-like segregation after their title-winning season in 2016-17. The club must also promote youngsters into the XI and look to build the team around the experienced campaigners from this season as some of the first team players are into the 30’s. Above all, it is the consistency that needs to be maintained after a season of all the hard work and not lose it away like just anything.
Bidya Laxmi Kongbrailatpam, Imphal
"It's indeed a proud moment for all of us to see a club from our hometown to reach this level. We are very lucky to witness such events that will go down the history of Manipur!!! I believe NEROCA FC will continue to shine and inspire the youths of the state in the days to come."
"Next season might be more competitive and different.So, we need to prepare well and maintain our pride. Now we need to trim the squad and look at bolstering our attacking and defence options ahead of next year. Our wingers will need to step up more in upcoming season. Hope our team sign some young players too."
Published: Wed Apr 25, 2018 05:15 PM IST