I-League: Special bond among players is Minerva Punjab FC's success mantra

Mar 09, 2018, 08:56 IST | Noel D'Souza

Minerva Punjab FC created history by becoming the first side from Punjab to win the I-league in 21 years yesterday, when William Asiedu Opoku's 15th-minute strike proved to be the decider in a 1-0 win over Churchill Brothers in Panchukula

I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC in Chandigarh yesterday
I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC in Chandigarh yesterday

Minerva Punjab FC created history by becoming the first side from Punjab to win the I-league in 21 years yesterday, when William Asiedu Opoku's 15th-minute strike proved to be the decider in a 1-0 win over Churchill Brothers in Panchukula. The now defunct JCT was the only other Punjab outfit to have won the inaugural National championship (later renamed I-League) in 1996-97.

It's an epic win for the Minerva ideology considering their junior team also emerged victorious in the youth league earlier this year. The club's only two Mumbai-based players, Girik Khosla and Abhishek Ambekar, explain what's special about Minerva?

"There is a unique bond between the players, coaching staff and team management. If any of the juniors need help, the seniors immediately step in. Off the field too, we have no hesitation in discussing our problems with each other at all times," Khosla, 23, a centre forward and resident of Sion Koliwada, told mid-day over the phone from a raucous Minerva dressing room yesterday.

Defender Ambekar, a Santacruz resident said the club's stringent training regime helps players bond better. "We had to undergo some rigorous hydrotherapy and yo yo tests, pre-season. All this made us tough and we developed that fighting attitude. The rigorous training saw us helping each other to ensure every player pulled through. That automatically brought us together," said Ambekar, 26, who has previously plied his trade for Air India, Mumbai Tigers and Mumbai FC.

Both players however, admitted they went to Punjab only because Mumbai offered no I-League exposure. "I am really disappointed that there is no I-League team from Mumbai. I was the skipper of the Mumbai FC U-19 team," said Khosla. "I would love Mumbai to have at least two I-League clubs. All of us cannot afford to go out and play. Thankfully, this Minerva experience has been very rewarding," added Ambekar.

Meanwhile, Minerva Punjab's ace Bhutanese forward Chencho Gyeltshen admitted the bond his teammates share at the club is something he would share in hiscountry as well. "Whatever activities we did we did it together, even in our apartment, all of us ate together. Recently, during training, we found one of the players to be having an off day. We called it a day and headed to watch Black Panther," Gyeltshen, nicknamed as Ronaldo of Bhutan, said. "I'm his fan and I celebrate like him."  

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