‘A’ Division League: Remarkable rise of Sankata

- PRAJWAL OLI, Kathmandu

Jan 4, 2019-

Sankata Club not just turned out to be a dark horse of the Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League this season but serious title contenders as was evident by the fact that the team finished second behind champions Manang Marshyangdi Club on Wednesday with a game to spare.

Those who knew Nepali football inside out would have never imagined Sankata would have made it this far at the start of the league, not even coach Salyan Khadgi himself. At the start of the league if anyone had envisaged Sankata finishing as runners-up, Khadgi would have gratefully taken it. Khadgi, former skipper of the club, had set the target of finishing at best in Top Five. By the end of the eight rounds, Sankata however were in hunt for the title, going neck-to-neck with eventual champions MMC with eight wins and one loss. 

What makes their run even more remarkable is the fact they do not have the star power in their squad like the pre-tournament favourites MMC, Three Star Club and Tribhuvan Army Club. But coach Khadgi made the most of whatever the players he had at his disposal with his tactful planning throughout their games. Before their 13th and final game, Sankata have won nine games, drawn once and lost twice. Their only two defeats came against Tribhuvan Army Club (5-1) and MMC (3-1).

In the words of coach Khadgi, who holds AFC ‘B’ coaching license, hard work and discipline of his players made it possible what earlier in the season appeared unthinkable. “Players gave 110 percent,” he said after his team confirmed second place finish on Wednesday with victory over Three Star. But hard work alone wouldn’t have been possible to achieve the feat, said Khadgi.” There is more to it. There was patience, unity and desire to excel that motivated each member of the team,” added Khadgi. Each member of the squad, including three of their foreign recruits, chanted ‘Sankata Mai Ki Jai’ in earnest before taking to the field, said Khadgi.

Sankata in fact appeared no match to MMC, Three Star and Army club in terms of star power. Realistically, they appear level with Nepal Police Club, Chyasal and Himalayan Sherpa Club considering the players they had at their disposal. But they excelled even their own expectations and surprisingly posed as the only title contenders until MMC sealed the league with two games to spare.

Sankata played their games with perfect coordination between defense, midfield and forward unlike Three Star, Army, NPC and APF whose performance lacked consistency. Sankata were a set team thanks to their participation in knockout tournaments prior to the start of the league. “We had retained seven or eight players that we played in the knockout events outside the Kathmandu Valley and the players knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Sankata president Indraman Tuladhar said. While it took time for other clubs to gel themselves as a coordinated unit, Sankata had a smooth ride from the onset.

Sankata were consistent as the results so far have shown. While some of the bigger teams lost points to the minnows, Sankata never let slip points against lowly sides or the teams of their ranks. Their only setback was a 1-1 draw against Brigade Boys Club. On the contrary, TAC dropped points against bottom side New Road Team in a 1-1 draw besides sharing points with underdogs Friends Club and JYC. Three Star also dropped points against Chyasal. “Sankata were fortunate not to have dropped points against teams of their ranks,” Himalayan Sherpa coach Subash Gurung said.

Khadgi’s approach of playing offensive and defensive games almost always paid off. Sankata always adopted an offensive approach against teams of their ranks. After taking lead however they appeared to tighten their defence to protect their lead. The ploy always worked for them.


Published: 04-01-2019 07:45

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