Costa to lead Pune FC

New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) Experienced defender Caitano Costa will lead Pune Football Club at the 126th edition of the Durand Cup here.

The third oldest football competition in the world continues to remain Pune FC's priority season opener as it was the first national level meet the team played after coming into existence in 2007. This is the fifth time Pune FC will figure in the tournament.

Seeded directly into the quarterfinal group stage, Pune FC is grouped along with Army Red and former I-League side ONGC FC in Group IV.

They begin their campaign against Army Red Monday and then take on ONGC Friday at the Ambedkar Stadium.

Till date, Pune FC's best ever performance in Durand Cup came in the 2011 edition when they made it to the semifinals.

The team this year is a mix of senior and Peninsula Pune Football Club Academy (PPFCA) Under-19 players. The seniors include skipper Costa, goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly, Gobin Singh and striker Prakash Thorat. Interestingly, the team includes four Pune-based players; Harshad Lunawat, Rushab Dhere, Vikas Zanze apart from Thorat.

"It's a tough mission for the boys and certainly a platform that will help them grow and prove their mettle. The opportunity is a once in a life time one for all the youngsters. We are hoping for the best and the boys are geared up to put their best foot forward," Pune FC youth head Ranjan Chowdhury said.

Pune FC goes into the championship with the hope of topping the group and making it to the semifinals. Last year, Pune FC made their exit in the group stage after two draws against Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Sesa FA.

This year the championship offers an increased prize purse. The winners stand to gain Rs.25 lakh while runners-up will get Rs.15 lakh. The two semifinalists will earn Rs.5 lakh each.

The following is the Pune FC team:

Goalkeepers: Shahinlal Meloly, Avilash Paul

Defenders: Caitano Costa, Gobin Singh, Henry Monsang, Kaushal Singh, Harshad Lunawat

Midfielders: Rushab Dhere, Manimaran R., Kiran C., Rohit Kalsotra, Altamash Sayed, Soubhagyan P.L. Somrajan, Diganta Khaddar, Sumit Kumar Dubey

Strikers: Prakash Thorat, Subhasish Bose, Vikas Zanje

Manager: Ranjan Chowdhury

Coach: Naushad Moosa

Physio: Lino Sequeira

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