With no East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the fray, Churchill Brothers head coach Fernando Santiago Varela believes the 2020-21 season of I-League to be more open and competitive and each every team possess a challenge for the title, however, dismissing them as one of the favourites for the same.
“There are other teams, there are other coaches, there are other players. Every team is a challenger for the title. You can’t say that just because East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are not there we can win the title,” Varela told News18 during a virtual press conference.
“We have to respect all the teams and we have to show first in our training that we are ready to get the title,” he added.
Last season, Churchill finished 8th in the I-League, with 20 points from 15 games. This season, with a more balanced side and a new coach, the Goan side would hope to achieve more.
Varela, who replaced Bernardo Tavares in the Churchill hot seat is not new to Indian football. The Argentina-born Spanish coach had previously led Gokulam Kerala to the 2017-18 Kerala Premier League and 2019 Durand Cup titles in his two years with the Kozhikode-based outfit.
The Red Machines’ gaffer is happy with the squad he has got and he has lauded the management for maintaining a perfect balance between youngsters and experienced players.
“I am very happy with the squad. We have a mix of experienced boys like Shilton (Paul) alongside young players who are striving to compete in their first I-League. There are quite a few talented young guns from Goa who are desperate to showcase their talent. I believe it’s important for a club to focus more on local talents.”
This season, Churchill kick-off their season on 10
of January 2021, against Indian Arrows, who according to Varela, gave him and his former side Gokulam one of the toughest challenges last season. “One of the most competitive matches was against Indian arrows. We start our season against them this year, even though they have changed their players, I am sure they are ready to show that they are ready to play for the bigger teams and the national team,” Varela said.
“We have to remain focused so we get a good start to the season with the right mentality because we have one of the more difficult matches as our opening game.”
The Red Machines are Goa’s only representative in the I-League this season and the two-time champions would be hoping to add a third title when the season ends this time.