Margao: Salgaocar coach Karim Bencherifa says the I-League triumph by his team after 12 years is the "sweetest" of his career so far as it came with a young and inexperienced team.

Bencherifa, who guided team to the national title after a gap of 12 years, said "I won many trophies whether with Churchill brothers or Mohun Bagan but the I-League triumph is the sweetest as it comes after a long hard season."

"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," stated Bencherifa.

"This is my first I-League title in India in five years.

Previously, I missed out on the national championship twice with my former clubs Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan," he said.

Despite Salgaocar being a far more inexperienced side, Bencherifa managed to spur this side to the coveted title.

"Nobody accounted us to be champion material at the start of the I-League. But we performed consistently well, drew the best crowd and came up with some memorable performances," he said.

"The title was slipping out of our hands until we beat Churchill Brothers and later beat East Bengal after being down by two goals. I must thank our fans who believed in us and that is the fitting reward for their faith in us," he said.

Salgaocar President Shivanand Salgaocar was happy with the club and especially with its Moroccan coach.

"We will build on this core team by plugging in the gaps to provide a more balanced side with adequate bench strength to meet the future challenges especially the AFC competitions," the club president said.

"Salgaocar's young guns Gilbert Oliveira, Cajetan Fernandes, Anthony Barboza and Francis Fernandes have been the finds of the season," he added.

Shivanand also praised Bencherifa for his ability to motivate youngsters to perform well in the senior team.

(Agencies)