2nd Div I-League Team Profile : NEROCA Football Club
About the team
Based in Imphal, Manipur, NEROCA-which stands for North Eastern Re-Organising Cultural Organisation- is one of the fastest growing footballing powerhouses of the North-Eastern part of India.
It is only a few years ago that they decided to venture into the National level footballing competitions after bossing the local scenario, albeit being around since 1965.
Manipur has always been a breeding ground for top quality footballers, having produced the likes of Renedy Singh, Gourmangi, Jackichand, Udanta and many more. But with Manipur lacking a team at the top division, most of the players had to leave the state in their quest for top flight football.
Now with Neroca providing the players with an opportunity to showcase their talent and put Manipur on the national stage, the prodigal sons have started to return.
With the advent of the Classic Group of Hotels as sponsors, Neroca are no longer dependent upon financial contributions from their members.
Having one of the strongest sides on paper this season, the team coached by the former Pune FC assistant coach Gift Raikhan are dreaming of playing in the I-League next season.
With insurgent attacks, ethnic tensions and political tension running high in Manipur, Neroca have managed to bind the entire population of Manipur under one banner.
Previous year’s second division's performances
With limited resources, Neroca proved a point in their debut I-League 2nd Division campaign last season. They finished third in the final round standings- just behind Dempo and Minerva with 17 points from 10 games.
Even though they fell short of achieving their dream, their gallant show was widely appreciated.
1st Round performance this season
Neroca has been in sublime form this season, having topped Group-B with 13 points from 6 matches. They suffered their only defeat at the hands of Mohammedan Sporting in Kolkata. They, however, managed to extract a positive result in the other two away matches against Southern Samity and Hindustan FC.
22th Jan - Hindustan FC 0-1 Neroca FC
27th Jan- Mohammedan SC 2-0 Neroca FC
4th Feb- Neroca FC 1-0 Southern Samity
12th Feb- Neroca FC 1-0 Hindustan FC
18th Feb –Southern Samity 0-1 Neroca FC
25th Feb – Neroca FC 1-1 Mohammedan SC
Target in the final round
Given the quality and the depth Neroca has, anything short of a I-League berth would be considered a debacle. However, they will face steep competition from the likes of Southern Samity who have roped in former I-League top goal scorer Odafa Okolie for the final round. But the fact that Neroca have beaten them twice in the preliminary round might just give the Manipur outfit the slight edge over their opponents.
Players to Watch out for
Even though playing in the 2nd tier league, Neroca have shocked everyone with some top quality signings this season. One of them being the signing of former Pune FC player Arata Izumi. With the ability of play anywhere in the midfield, Izumi's incisive passing and the habit of scoring crucial goals makes him a key cog in the Neroca team.
Subhash Singh is another player who can turn the game on its head. His lethal pace and finishing ability makes him a player to watch out for.
Former India international Sushil Singh is another player who has been in sublime form recently. If he can continue his form in the final stages then Neroca will certainly be a step closer to the I-League.
The coach and his influence
Head Coach Gift Raikhan has been at the helm of the club for a couple of seasons now. The former Pune FC assistant coach has played a pivotal role in the growth of the club. He helped the club management meet the norms necessary to play in the I-League 2nd Division, giving the people of Manipur a new ray of hope.
With bandhs in Imphal hampering training sessions on a regular basis, Raikhan ensured that the focus remained intact among the players. He was also instrumental in signing the likes of Govin Singh, Subhash Singh and Sushil Singh before the start of this season.
However, the fans have been complaining in social media about Raikhan under-utilising his players- something which boils down to be a problem of the riches- since he has a lot of quality players to choose from.
Expectations in the final round
Neroca are expected to usurp the other teams and be the champions of the second division, given the quality that they possess.
What will they bring to the I-League?
Apart from being the first team from Manipur, Neroca will bring with them one of the biggest fan followings in the country. Playing in the I-League would also provide a platform for all the Manipuri players to showcase their talent on the big stage. Add to that the gripping rivalry between Mizoram and Manipur in the I-League will be like a breath of fresh air. A North Eastern rivalry between Aizawl and Neroca is something that the fans have been waiting for.
The club’s ability to survive in the I-League if promoted
With proper investments and some quality signings, Neroca can be a force to reckon with in the I-League. They do have a quality squad with players having top flight experience and with the massive support, one would not be surprised if they can conjure something like Aizawl FC have done this season.
Goalkeepers -Arup Debnath, Lalit Thapa.
Defenders - Govin Singh, Moirangthem Dhanajoy Singh, Kallon Varney, Moirangmayum Ashok Singh,
Ngasepam Tondonba, Sohail Shah.
Midfielders - Saran Singh, Kishan Singh, Bisheshwor Singh, Anand Kumar Singh, David Lalbiakzara, Arata Izumi.
Forwards - Pritam Singh, Subhash Singh, Emmanuel, Ronald Singh, Felix Chidi, Johnson Singh, Sushil Singh.
Final Round Fixtures
07.04.2017 Southern Samity vs NEROCA FC
12.04.2017 Kenkre FC vs NEROCA FC
16.04.2017 Fateh Hyderabad vs NEROCA FC
21.04.2017 NEROCA FC vs Delhi United SC
29.04.2017 NEROCA FC vs Kenkre FC
06.05.2017 NEROCA FC vs Lonestar Kashmir
14.05.2017 NEROCA FC vs Fateh Hyderabad
19.05.2017 Delhi United SC vs NEROCA FC
22.05.2017 Lonestar Kashmir vs NEROCA FC
22.05.2017 NEROCA FC vs Southern Samity