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Old warhorses reunite in India’s quest for first-ever AFC U-23 Championship berth

Gumpe Rime, Derrick Pereira and Shanmugam Venkatesh at the India U-23 national team camp. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Gumpe Rime, Derrick Pereira and Shanmugam Venkatesh at the India U-23 national team camp. Photo courtesy: AIFF Media

The Indian football fraternity is a well-knit family which only keeps on growing beyond the limits welcoming the newer members with both hands. Back to 1997, Derrick Pereira and Shanmugam Venkatesh had been two of the pivotal members of the Salgaocar FC squad who won the Federation Cup overpowering East Bengal at their den, the Saltlake Stadium.

Fast forward 8 years, the same Venkatesh, who is fondly known as Venky was playing under the stewardship of the same Derrick Pereira in the star-studded Mahindra United club who had tasted every single silverware in India during their era. In 2008, they reunited once again in Pune FC before Venkatesh hung his boots in 2014.

“Venky was someone who had always contributed to the team and I really liked his style and game reading. He was an intelligent player throughout.”

Cut to 2019, these two football masterminds have joined hands together once again, but for a different purpose, for a different cause.

As the All India Football Federation has handed Derrick Pereira the daunting task of sailing India to their first-ever AFC U-23 Championship in history, no one could have been the most suitable football mind to share his acumen than the former national skipper Shanmugam Venkatesh.

“Now that both of us are together, we feel we’ll be complementing each other. Venky brings in a huge experience of working with Stephen Constantine which has helped him evolve as a coach with time. Given the circumstances, I’m sure we’ll enjoy the journey ahead”, Pereira stated.

“I still remember the Federation Cup win for Salgaocar FC, beating East Bengal in Kolkata was not easy and we felt like being at the top of the world. We have come a long way since then and now we have reunited once again,” Venkatesh commented.

Venkatesh added further, “Derrick Sir had accomplished a lot as a coach and as far as I know him, I feel it’ll be a great opportunity for these young boys to learn from this great football mind.”

On the other hand, goalkeeping coach Gumpe Rime had also plied his trade under Pereira in Vasco for a year (2000/01).

Pereira recalled, “Gumpe was a really tough goalkeeper and he was always eager to learn. Unfortunately, an injury cut short his time in Vasco and we brought in Rogerio Ramos. It’s great to work with him once again.”

Incidentally, Rogerio Ramos happened to be the former goalkeeping coach for India National Team for the last four years (2015-19).

“It’s my second stint with National Team set-up and I am privileged to get this opportunity once again. Derrick Sir is someone who I always had high regards for and I can’t wait to start working with him as well as the young promising goalies,” Rime added too.

India are pitted against hosts Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan in the AFC U-23 Championship 2020 qualifiers which is scheduled at Tashkent between March 22 and 26, 2019.

(AIFF Media)