It’s Minerva’s title to lose from here: Gouramangi (IANS Interview)

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Imphal, Feb 9 (IANS) Veteran India defender and Neroca FC star Gouramangi Singh feels that the I-League title is for Minerva Punjab FC to lose and his team are taking it one game at a time.

“We are not thinking we can win the title. It’s Minvera’s title to lose,” Gouramangi told IANS in an interview ahead of their clash against defending champions Aizawl FC at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium on Saturday.

Neroca, who have made their debut in the top division this season, surprised the critics by briefly climbing to the top of the points table before being dislodged by Minerva. They are currently at the second spot with 27 points from 14 games.

Surprise Indian Super League (ISL) leaders Minerva are two points ahead of them with 29 points from 13 matches.

“The secret to our success has been our self-belief. We have got a good bunch of boys. We have a common goal. With my experience, I always tell the boys to take one game at a time. It is a common word but one that I believe in.

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“There is no point thinking what will happen two months later. It’s important to assess what we are doing now,” Gouramangi said.

Neroca won the second division title last season to make the cut for the I-League, and since then have surprised one and all by staking a claim for the crown.

Minerva, on their part, have also defied odds to maintain their place at the top of the heap.

Gouramangi, who has previously bagged the I-League medal with Churchill Brothers in the 2008-09 season, said though Neroca’s success has not come as a surprise to the Minerva players, the aim still is to finish in the top-four and be a part of the planned Super Cup involving top teams of the I-League and the ISL.

“We are not surprised to be honest. Because we had a spark always and among us we felt that,” the former All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year said.

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“We want to continue playing like this till the end of the season and the Super Cup we always wanted to be a part of. So top four was the priority, and till now that is our target. If we win the league, nothing like it. But it’s not in our control now.”

From here on, Minerva will annex the league if they win all their remaining five matches. Any slip up, and provided Neroca maintain their good showing, the Manipur-based side could realise their improbable dream.

Gouramangi, who hails from Manipur, represented India in 69 matches between 2006 and 2013 and was a key member of the national side that took part in the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha under the tutelage of former chief coach Bob Houghton.

The 32-year-old last donned the India shirt in the 2013 SAFF Championship final where he captained the side that lost to Afghanistan 0-2.

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Wishing the team under coach Stephen Constantine all the best for the 2019 Asian Cup, Gouramangi said it would be a “bonus” if he can make a comeback.

“I am the biggest fan of the Indian football team. I am indebted to the national team and will be forever. I have been a part of the team since 2001 and across age groups. For any player, wearing the blue jersey is the ultimate. Nothing like it, if I can comeback. For that, I have to keep doing my job. A comeback would be a bonus,” Gourmangi said.

“He (Constantine) is doing a great job. He is the one who took me to Tokyo for the World Cup qualifiers and I was part of the squad. I didn’t play the game but that was my first exposure to the national team. I have a lot of respect for him,” he signed off.

–IANS

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