United Sikkim Football Club (USFC), the 2nd division club of India, co-owned by Indian star footballer – Bhaichung Bhutia, famous music director and singer Shankar Mahadevan and FidelisWorld, has made another high profile signing by boosting their squad with veteran midfielder and former Namibian football team captain – Quinton Jacobs. This deal ranks among one of the biggest poaching by a 2nd division club in India. Earlier USFC had swooped in former Liberian national team player Johnny Menyongar. They have also signed Joseph Lapira who has played a game for Republic of Ireland in 2007 and has experience of playing in Norway 2nd division.
However, Quinton Jacobs (age-32) by far provides the most impressive profile among the foreign recruits signed by the club. He has 51 caps for his national team, has been the captain of the team until recently. But earlier this year, he lost his place in the Namibian national team.
Jacobs started his career with lots of promises. At 18, he started playing for Namibian club Black Africa. His shot at fame came when he was called up by the EPL side Manchester United for trials. In fact, he played a friendly for Manchester United’s reserve side. In 1999 he joined Scottish Division 2 side – Partick Thistle. Later he went to German club MSV Duisburg but was dropped without having made any appearance. He came back to Africa, playing for South African and Namibian clubs. In 2006, he made his comeback to Europe when he joined Bryne FK, which was then playing in Norwegian premier league. During this phase he also created controversy when he questioned his National team coach Ben Bamfuchile’s decision of playing him in a position, he is not comfortable with and then substituting him in a match. However, later he was praised by Namibian coach Kunamwene as a true professional after he helped his team to qualify for 2008 African Cup of Nations. In 2009, under coach Tom Saintfeld he captained the national team for many games and also performed quite consistently. He was also the captain of the Namibian squad which came to India for a friendly match last year.
Last year had been very tough for him as he had been largely devoid of club matches after he left the Namibian club African Stars to play on loan for Palestinian club, Jabal Al Mukhaber. His club had asked for a huge fee for his services, which created a standoff between the clubs. In fact it is also rumored that a number of clubs were interested in his services, but they cannot meet the 80,000 Euro transfer fee that Stars have requested for his services.
Due to his lack of match practice and increasing age, the new caretaker coach Brian Issacs, didn’t name him in Namibian 22 member squad this year. Inspite of being out of national team and lack of match practice, Quinton Jacobs has the potential of being a star player for USFC as quality of the recruits of most teams in 2nd division is far below the standards at which Jacobs has played. However, he has just joined in middle of the competition, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to Indian conditions. He will surely try to do his best so that he can make a comeback in his national team.
USFC also have players with Indian national team experience, something which is unique in 2nd division. They have the experienced Bhaichung Bhutia himself, Renedy Singh and N.S Manju who is member of the current national team. Apart from them, they have impressive players like – Kulothungan, Bijen Singh, M. Suresh, Budiram Tudu and Lalrinfela.
All these signings are consistent with USFC’s promises of providing football of very high standards in future. The first target, of course, is to qualify for the I league which Bhutia had said should be done by 3 years. However, anyone looking at USFC’s progress would know that the owners are not leaving any stone unturned to get into I league in their first attempt itself.
Notwithstanding the efforts of USFC, fans are not placing them as overwhelming favorites, chiefly because the team has just been assembled and had very little time to prepare. USFC so far has played two games, drawing one and winning the other. They have 4 more games left to push themselves into the next round.