Minerva Academy Football Club had a dream 2nd Division I-League debut to become the Champions of the Western Conference. To claim the pole position, The Pride of Punjab have won 6 out of their 8 matches, while having drawn 1 and suffering a narrow away-loss to Dempo SC.
The Western Conference Champions’ Title cannot be sweeter at this point as it serves as a confidence booster for the Minervans, who will start preparing for the final round after a short break.
“This is just a good start for us and we all know our mission is not accomplished yet. We still have long and tougher road ahead of us and we can’t rest on this laurel. The hard work begins now as the real challenge lies ahead,” is what club director and think-tank Ranjit Bajaj had to say.
True to his sayings, hard work has been the key reason behind Minerva’s dream run. The 16 goals that came from the players are results of several hours of practice put in. Moreover at Minerva, great emphasise was put on the players fitness, having them to go through rigorous fitness regime. Utmost care was also taken on their recovery with regular Hydrotherapy and Spa sessions. On average, players had 4 hours of sessions everyday, excluding class room sessions.
The eight 90-minute games that the boys displayed was just a tip of the hard work they have put in since August-September 2015, when the management was putting all papers together to make it to the 2nd Division I-League.
With 2 goals on average per match, Minerva Academy FC were the highest goal scorers in both the Eastern and Western conference put together with 16 goals scored. The fact that these 16 goals were scored by 10 different players also suggest the ‘Team Game’ philosophy that coach Surinder Singh had adopted.
If the goal galore were things to be happy about, Goalkeeping coach Sandeep Singh’s first choice Shayan Roy was equally good at his task. He let in only 3 goals in the 7 matches he was under the bar, keeping 5 clean sheets. This brought Minerva’s goal difference to another ‘Best’ of the league with 13.
Minervans were also the highest goal scorers at Home and Away with 8 goals each while were also the lowest to concede in both Home (2) and Away (1) too. Interestingly, MAFC have won all the matches when they have scored first though only 3 goals have been scored in the first 30 minutes.
On the contrary, 4 goals each were scored between 30-45 minutes and 75-90 minutes, which once again proves the Minervans fitness and endurance over their rivals. That’s not all, the team also maintained 5 match unbeaten run with 4 consecutive wins to start the league.
Now that the Western Conference have been conquered, the management is already staging a plan to conquer the Final Round to become the 2nd Division champions to make it to the I-League. With the transfer season on, the team is likely to be active to upgrade the squad for the final assault that is likely to begin late February or early March.
Statistics on the next page