THE DEBUTANT CLUBS in I-League this season, Minerva Punjab FC and Chennai City FC, are set to put up a tough fight and upset some of the old boys, according to their captains.
Dharmaraj Ravanan, the Indian U-23 international defender who started his youth career at the Indian Bank team from Chennai, had to move out of his home state to start his senior top division career. Since 2005, he has been playing at clubs like Dempo, Mohun Bagan, Mahindra United, Churchill Brothers, Bharat FC and Sporting Clube de Goa. But finally, in I-League 2016-17, he will get to wear the shirt of a club representing the capital of his own state.
Speaking at the I-League 2016-17 launch event in New Delhi, Dharmaraj said,
"For the first time in 12 years we have a team from Chennai playing in the top division... the people are very excited in Tamil Nadu."
The other new club, Minerva Punjab FC, is also looking to make a big entrance at the Indian top division league. Manandeep Singh, an Indian international striker hailing from Haryana, said he was glad to represent a north Indian club after years of playing at clubs like Indian Arrows, Air India, East Bengal, Rangdajied United and Salgaocar. He said there was a lot of excitement around the upcoming season back in Punjab,
"There's a lot of passion and excitement out there. As a player I'm proud that our stadium was packed when India played there."
Talking about the approach to the league, Manandeep hinted at measured steps from the club,
"We want to be well-prepared, consistent and put our best foot forward... apart from some talented local players we have signed players from Bengaluru, Goa... all over the place. The idea is to give the big boys a run for the money on the pitch."
Both Minerva Punjab and Chenni City will start their campaigns against each other at Chennai's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday, 8th January.