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Bugle for ISL 3

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PANAJI/GUWAHATI
The pain of FC Goa’s last year defeat to Chennaiyin FC may still linger on in a few. As Indian Super League (ISL) kicks off with NorthEast United FC playing Kerala Blasters, football fans in Goa will wait and watch to see how far FC Goa will reach this year.
FC Goa’s performance in the ISL has been ascending since the start of the tournament. From literally nowhere, Zico took team FC Goa to the semifinals. That was the spark of what the legend from Brazil could do and was capable of doing.
At the end of the campaign, Zico promised to try and win the title for FC Goa in the second year. Till the dying minutes of the final against Chennaiyin FC, it appeared Zico had kept to his word as FC Goa was on the verge of winning the match and the title.
Two goals in seconds changed the story and Chennaiyin FC flew away as winners of ISL 2.
Goa was devastated. It has been a year now and though the pain lingers, Zico is back to show that he does not believe in the saying, “once bitten, twice shy.” He is here to prove that he, and only he, is the master of the ball and that with the fans he can place Goa where it rightly belongs- the topmost pedestal of Indian football.
FC Goa could not retain most of their players of last season but those that they did, performed credibly for the team the last time and should not shy by performing a repeat. The new faces may take time to adjust but with the technical team from Brazil, adjustment can always be a matter of time.
The first match pits hosts NorthEast United FC with Kerala Blasters at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati.
Curiously, it will be the third consecutive opening clash rivalry between the two franchises, with NorthEast winning 1-0 in 2014 at home and losing 1-3 in 2015 at Kochi.
Blasters, runners-up in 2014, had a trouble-filled campaign last year with much chopping and changing in the team management.
With new co-owners funding fresh expectations, they have handed the managerial reigns to Englishman Steve Coppell and drafted in forward Michael Chopra and defender Cedric Hengbart after 2014. Northern Ireland’s international Aaron Hughes is their marquee player.
NorthEast, under new coach from Portugal, Nelo Vingada, have always focused on their young regional players to form the core of the squad with Ivorian Didier Zokora proving the experience and leadership as the marquee man.
Brazilian legend Zico will be on FC Goa’s dug-out as coach for the third straight year as will be Italian Marco Materazzi, for defending champions Chennaiyin FC.
Rise has switched to Chennaiyin from Delhi Dynamos, who will be helmed by another Italian Gianluca Zambrotta. Dynamos have retained Malouda while Goa also kept Lucio as their star quotient.
Forlan will spearhead Mumbai City FC while Portuguese Helder Postiga will hope to contribute substantially for former champions Atletico de Kolkata, after limping out of the tournament in his very first match last year.
FC Pune City have hired Spanish coach Javier Habas, Atletico’s coach in the first two editions, to overturn their bungling fortunes but seems to have confronted with fresh trouble having already lost star foreigners Eidur Gudjohnsen and Andre Bikey ruled out with injuries.
The emergence of Indian players from the glitzy tournament to strengthen the national team’s fortunes have been low.
Some notable names like Jeje Lapekhlua, Mandar Rao Desai, Romeo Fernandes, Sandesh Jhingan, Augustin Fernandes and Jeje Lapekhlua, have however made themselves prominent.
There have been quite a few of Goan players who will not be seen in this year’s ISL as they have not been retained by their teams.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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