Lucky to escape relegation, says NEROCA coach Raikhan

KOLKATA: All Indian Football Federation (AIFF's) decision to close the curtains in the I-League about a month ago with a few rounds of matches from the remaining 2019-20 season has not only awarded the crown in favor of the runaway leaders. Mohun Bagan But it has also helped a few bottom clubs give a sigh of relief.

The Imphal-based NEROCA FC I-League team is one of them.

On an 11-team roster, reeling in ninth place (19 points out of 17 games) with only its northeast neighbors Aizawl FC and development side AIFF immunized to relegation Indian arrows Behind, the Manipur club, coached by Gift Raikhan, could feel lucky to escape humiliation this season. Although only a four-point gap between them and the Kolkata giants who are in second place, East Bengal, shows the abyss of difference that greens and maroons enjoyed over their competitors this season under Spanish gaffer Kibu Vicuña, NEROCA expects return to a stronger position. coronavirus pandemic and reconstruction in its best performances in the recent past.

Mohun Bagan were clear winners, they showed the gap all the other clubs had with them and were rightfully awarded the championship. No one can deny their superiority this season. They showed class, application and consistency throughout. They are a big club and we must learn from them. We didn't have a good season. Though we had three games left, I feel we were lucky to escape relegation this year. Lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic actually helped us save the blushes and remain in I-League , said Raikhan over phone from his village home in Mapao Zingtun, about 25 km from Imphal.

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Explaining further the reasons behind his poor condition this season, the Manipuri player said: NEROCA went through a big financial problem before the start of the 2019-20 season, all the first team players were released as there was no certainty of to present an I-League Team. Finally, the team's management managed to float the senior team and the players were selected very late in the season, so the selection of local players and the selection of foreigners was not good.

I was also late after giving up on Gokulam Kerala, so we didn't have a good preseason with an established team. I hope every time the next season starts we have a good time to prepare, so I hope we will make a change and play much better.

When asked about ongoing payment issues, as many players have two to three months salary, Raikhan said: I am acting as a bridge between management and players. I can only say that the club is going through a serious financial crisis due to the blockade, but it will definitely honor the contracts, no one will be cheated, everyone will receive their dues before leaving. Players have the right to ask for money, but everyone understands this situation quite well.

Being a professional trainer, Raikhan has rarely had enough family time for the past 12-15 years, but blocking has made him enjoy it like never before. Confined to his birthplace since closing, Raikhan is happy to spend time in a large joint family with his wife Leima and their three children: Soyothei (13), Lemthing (9) and Yoi Yoi (4).

I am playing with my children, nephews, nieces in the patio, on the roof, in the village field. We have a joint family of seven brothers and one sister. In addition to a couple of siblings, they all stay in town, so I'm having a pure family time after a long, long time and enjoying everything. I also participate in online training workshops organized by the Manipur Coaches Association. I am sharing my experience and also getting new ideas from young coaches, learning new methods from them. I'll update once the lock is over and let's get back to the field of action, Raikhan said before logging out.