Moroccan Karim Bencharifa has finally fulfilled his dream of winning the I-League title with Salgaocar Sports Club! The Goans won their final game of the 2010/11 season against JCT in Ludhiana on May 30 to ensure that none of the other contenders could catch them.
What makes this title so special not only for Karim, but for the players and Salgaocar SC as a club is the fact that this is a team of mainly talented youngsters and an experienced bunch of foreigners in Brazilian Luciano Sabrosa, Japanese Ryuji Sueoka and Ghanian Yakubu Yusif.
"This triumph means a lot to me, my players, staff and management. I would also like to dedicate this triumph to the Salgaocar fans. They were really behind us, especially at home and that helped us a lot," said an overjoyed Karim.
For Karim the title came in year five of his coaching stint in India. After two years with Churchill Brothers SC (2006-08), close to two years at Mohun Bagan (2008-10) and over a year at Salgaocar SC (2010 - ...), he has finally won the title on the third attempt. At all three clubs he has build teams from scratch and he did it around strong foreigners, seasoned locals and give young Indians a chance to launch their career.
Be it Gouramangi Singh, Arindam Bhattacharya, Govin Singh at Churchill Brothers; Manish Maithani and others at Mohun Bagan, now Gilbert Oliveira, Cajetan Fernandes, Anthony Barbosa and Francis Fernandes at Salgaocar. Karim has the eye to pick young talent and give them playing time to prove their worth to him.
I remember a conversation we had in February 2011 in Kolkata. Karim said at the time his ambition was to finish amongst the top three this year and then challenge for the title next season. It seems he was beaten by his own plans.
My heartiest congratulations to my friend Karim! You deserve it...