2nd Division I-League: Vikrant Sharma - Huge achievement for Hindustan FC with limited resources

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After guiding the small-budget New Delhi-based side to the final round, the former goalkeeper talks to GOAL about the momentous feat...

Hindustan FC were the last team to make it to the final round of the 2018 2nd Division I-League. The New Delhi-based side finished as the best-placed runners-up among all three groups with 20 points, two behind their Group A winners Real Kashmir. 

Their head coach Vikrant Sharma is a well-known name in Goa having spent almost his entire playing career in the sunny state as a goalkeeper. Now, back in his native Delhi, he has led the small-budget side past the initial stage for the first time since 2015.

"Delhi football is a tough job. After playing all my football in Goa and coming to Delhi, it was a very big job. Quality-wise, technical-wise, it is a huge gap. Nobody could control that gap. After playing in the grassroots, school or college level, the boys are not getting that level of training", Sharma laments the shambles the sport is in the national capital.

He added, "Once you come up to this level, you can see the difference in the quality of players. After coming to this stage, there is no magic wand that I can use to make them of the quality the stage demands."

The 44-year-old, who also holds a day job in the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reveals how he lined up recruits from around the country before the season started in order to field a side that would at least not back down from a challenge.

"As I work for the RBI, I had noticed two players from the All India RBI team and have brought them there. I got Maneshwar Mushahary from Assam who I knew in and out and Utkarsh Kaushik from Rajasthan who is a very good and young player but sadly was posted in a state that had no culture of football. Asifullah Khan, who played for Maharashtra in the Santosh Trophy, Nitesh Chhikara from Mumbai and Mithun Samonto, our goalkeeper from Bengal are the only non-Delhi players. These few players brought some stability in the team."

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The 70-year-old club remained unbeaten throughout the league phase as they won five and drew as many. "We got a good start and once we got that, it was all about continuing the momentum. The first thing I told them was no matter what, never lose. A point in a long league, each and every one of them is crucial."

With a tight budget, Sharma is proud to have taken up the challenge and reap benefits. He said, "Somehow we managed with the limited resources. It was only about in 2-3 games that I made all three substitutions. Only when there was a need I made changes to the team that we could manage to field. On the bench, we had three under 18 boys; out of the seven (on the bench), three I couldn't use and one was a goalkeeper.

"Reaching the final is a huge achievement for Hindustan FC. I played in Goa in SESA and Dempo and after coming to Delhi to coach, I found that there was nothing to base upon. But I took on that task and the results are here to see."

The final round starts from 24 May with Real Kashmir, TRAU FC and Ozone FC being the other participants. However, Sharma did not bother that Ozone FC would technically have home advantage given the final round is in Bengaluru.

"Priority should be given to a good place, good ground. Home ground and all that is all secondary. Suppose you go to a neutral ground and you get temperatures of 43-44 degrees, horrible ground, then what would you say? To play football, foremost, you need good conditions and good ground. I don't believe in home grounds and all, the officiating and the conditions should be of standard", he concluded.

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