CHENNAI: Veni, vidi, vici. The Latin proverb aptly describes Swaraj FC’s journey in the Chennai football league. In four years, they have made it to the top tier, having started in the Third Division in 2014. The latest of their triumphs sees them enter the Senior Division, as First Division champions. They won nine and drew two of 11 matches to seal top spot. Their striker Laldingngheta was highest-scorer with 10 goals.
In their debut season, they were runners-up in the Third Division and missed out narrowly on promotion. Next year they topped that tier and there has been no looking back since, as two more top-place finishes saw them through to the Senior Division. Speaking about the challenges they would face next season, Swaraj FC owner Srish Balakrishnan said, “We are happy being champions, but not satisfied. The competition in the top division is going to be far higher than what we have faced in the last four seasons. We are stepping into a completely different zone.
Having that edge of being a stronger team doesn’t exist any more. We have to start from scratch as a team and work hard to be the best.” Asked about the hardships they faced, coach Aldroy Atkinson said, “We got everything we wanted as Srish made sure we were comfortable. But as the league lasted only 45 days unlike the previous season which was two months, we got little less time to practice. “This season the squad of 23 had seven North-east players — four from Mizoram, three from Manipur — and the rest were local boys. We want our players to grow professionally and aim for bigger clubs in bigger leagues of the country,” the coach added. T
o cope with the competition, Swaraj had to bolster their roster with better and costlier players every year. Coach Aldroy said till last year they played with two foreigners, but this year they had only one, who played three matches because the team wanted to give opportunities to local players. Asked about expenses, officials refused to reveal details, but on an average, a First Division team spends `5-6 lakh per year. “We worked hard to be where we are today, but we need to show who we are by performance, not by talking,” said the coach. Can Swaraj prove their prowess in the Senior Division? Let time tell.