Former National Coach Sukhwinder Singh, the man who had coached JCT to the inaugural National Football League (1996-97), feels Minerva Punjab Football Club’s rise was “necessary for Punjab football.”
“A team from Punjab is finally filling up the void left by JCT. Minerva is a much needed boost, it was necessary for Punjab football. It will motivate the boys in the state to do well as they now have a platform to prove themselves,” the man who has been watching almost every match of the Hero I-League stated.
“Punjab has a lot of footballing talent and Minerva is providing that platform to them. Winning a league is not easy, but I’m excited that they are still in it to win it,” he added. “With Minerva’s success, I hope more people will take up the sport.”
Reflecting on the current season of the Hero I-League, he mentioned that is has been an “extremely competitive league.”
“I have been following almost all the matches on television and the fact that all the top four teams stay in contention on the final day speaks about the competitive nature and quality of the I-League.”
However, he wasn’t willing to go into any predictions. Nevertheless, he recollected the dramatic moment when JCT were crowd champions in the NFL first edition.
“We were playing against Dempo in Goa while Churchill were playing in Chennai. We needed a win and Churchill was required to drop points for us to win the league. We won the match but all of us were standing clueless in the middle of the ground,” he smiled.
“With no mobile phones back then, we had no way of knowing of what was happening in the other match. Finally, a representative from the TV broadcaster came up to me all smiling saying ‘Congratulations Mr. Singh you are the Champions.’ I remember the players going wild. They deserved every bit of it,” he paused.
The JCT attack force for that edition was a star-studded one comprising of Baichung Bhutia, IM Vijayan, Stephen Awarowie, Carlton Chapman and Tejinder Kumar and Joe Paul Ancheri manoeuvring the midfield.
Singh breaks the silence. “I am sure the scenes will be the same tomorrow. The best team will win.”