East Bengal are favourites to win I-League: Clifford Miranda

Debayan Mukherjee

Clifford Miranda has been a part of the Dempo SC nucleus for long. Ahead of their crucial I-League encounter against East Bengal, Clifford rubbishes talks of ‘revenge’ being on Dempo’s minds. Branding East Bengal as the favourites to win this season’s I-League, Clifford spoke at length to www.the-aiff.com about the start, missing Ranti Martins, the other contenders for the title and much more. EXCERPTS:

Clifford Miranda (R) and Sanju Pradhan
The new season doesn’t have something new in store as Dempo have been unstoppable so far.
(Laughs) It’s very important to start the season on a high. We have been late starters before but as we did last season, we are off to a good start. No doubt, it’s a very positive sign. It gives you the right kind of impetus to surge forward. It’s a Marathon League and you need that kick from the word go. I am glad we got that especially after a lost a couple of important players in the transfer window this summer.

How is life without Ranti Martins?
He is a goal machine, a natural goalscorer. It would be wrong to say we don’t miss him though we are playing well as a unit. He was an integral part of the team and his contribution to the club can never be demeaned. On behalf of Dempo I wish him all the luck for the future. He was a real asset.

Is the sixth League crown achievable this season itself?
We have won the League five times and every time the job gets tougher. Churchill Brothers and East Bengal are real title contenders this season. So it’s all the more challenging to defend the title this season. But that’s what gets us going — competition.

Do you label Dempo’s next match against East Bengal as a ‘grudge-match?’
Not at all! There is no animosity. There are a great side and I have immense respect for their coach Trevor Morgan. I admire him. Honestly, I believe they stay the favourites to win the title this time. Rivalry is not a big issue. We need to remember that in a Marathon League, one loss or a win won’t win any the title.

As an established member of the Senior Indian National side, what do you make of Pailan Arrows’ form this season so far?
The Arrows have been a great initiative by All India Football Federation. The AIFF needs to be lauded for putting up a team to play in the I-League. The initiative has produced so many young players who now play for Big Clubs and the National Team. The brand of football Pailan are playing under Arthur Papas is beautiful. They played a friendly with the Indian Senior Team before the Nehru Cup and I was very much impressed by their game.