Golden Eagles Soar Back: Dempo SC Secures Return to I-League

Dempo Sports Club, a legendary name in Indian football, has returned to the I-League after a nine-year hiatus. Owned by the illustrious Dempo family, particularly prominent businessman Shrinivas Dempo, the Goan club secured promotion from I-League 2 with a thrilling 3-1 comeback win against Sudeva Delhi FC on Saturday. This marks a significant return for a club that has etched its name in Indian football history.

Dempo SC boasts a glorious past, having been crowned I-League champions a remarkable five times. Their trophy cabinet also gleams with the Federation Cup (2004), Indian Super Cup (2008 and 2010), and Durand Cup (2006). Dempo’s dominance extended beyond domestic borders, with them representing India in the AFC Cup a commendable five times, even reaching the semi-finals in 2008.

However, Dempo SC’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. In the 2014-15 I-League season, the team’s performance dipped. Despite a mid-season coaching change, Dempo SC could only manage 3 wins and 10 draws, finishing second-last in the league. Injuries and a lack of consistent form likely contributed to their struggles. Unfortunately, that season also saw Bharat FC, who finished last, granted a two-year relegation immunity. This meant that even though Dempo SC finished higher, they were the team that ultimately got relegated from the I-League.

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The tide began to turn with the appointment of Pradyum Reddy as the new head of Dempo SC’s administration in 2022. Reddy, a young and ambitious leader, instilled a renewed focus on development and professionalism in the club. His vision aligned with the revamped Indian football structure, which now includes a more transparent pathway from I-League to ISL. This shift in the landscape motivated Dempo SC to rejoin the national league system, starting their journey back in I-League 3.

Dempo SC’s return to the I-League wasn’t a walk in the park. The team faced stiff competition in a revamped I-League 2, but their fighting spirit and rich footballing heritage shone through. Coach Samir Naik, a former India international defender, instilled a strong winning mentality in the squad. The team displayed resilience, evident in their comeback victory to secure promotion on the final day.

This return to the I-League signifies more than just a sporting achievement. It marks the resurgence of a footballing giant and the return of passionate Goan fans to the national stage. Dempo SC’s ambition doesn’t stop here. Coach Naik has openly declared that the club’s ultimate goal is to reach the ISL, the top tier of Indian football. With their rich history, a determined administration, and a talented squad, Dempo SC is poised to make a significant impact on Indian football once again. Their return to the I-League is a welcome addition, adding depth, competition, and a touch of nostalgia to the league. Indian football fans can look forward to witnessing the return of the Golden Eagles and their fight for further glory.