AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
Panaji: Three who have won the Indian Super League (ISL) title before; two first timers; and six countries will set the imprint of coaches and start ISL 6, as a league of no favourites and the tournament – as has been the case before – as one of surprises.
ISL started in 2014 with a galaxy of coaches and the best coach it has had was Zico, who was part of FC Goa for three years. The quality has been on a decline but ISL 6 could well be the stage where the diversity is vivid.
From Brazil to Spain and now Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. With coaches from six different countries of the world the football will be varied; strategies will be diverse and the quotient of surprise very high because the players may be similar but the strategists are not all the same.
Antonio Habas of ATK, John Gregory of Chennaiyin FC and Carlos Cuadrat of Bengaluru FC have all won titles for their respective teams. Three coaches from Spain have won the tournament whilst the other two titles were shared by an Englishman and an Italian.
ISL 6 begins with four coaches from Spain, two from England and one each from Portugal, Netherlands, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, bringing in six different styles of football. The game is same but the thinking behind each game is going to be different.
From the ten coaches in the fray this season, Cuadrat will look to retain the title he won last year whilst Habas and Gregory will try to lay their hands on the title that was once theirs. FC Goa’s Sergio Lobera will try to get his hand within reach this year whilst Jorge Costa and Eelco Schattorie will want to prove that football is a mind game.
Except for Sergio, most coaches have made changes in their squads – either to replace players they lost or to augment their strength – and this will be another reason why this edition of the tournament will continue to be as unpredictable as the others.
Habas of ATK, Gregory of Chennaiyin FC, Cuadrat of Bengaluru FC, Lobera of FC Goa, Costa of Mumbai City FC and Schattorie of Kerala Blasters have made an impact from the time they joined their respective teams and they are expected to continue with most of them capable of throwing in a substantial dose of surprises.
Habas created his own style of football when he first joined ATK and therefore found his way back into the team. He may not have his old set of players but his style of attacking with a solid defence is bound to continue and surprise opponents.
Gregory will try to get Chennaiyin FC out of the slumber that he let it slip in last season after having won the title in the previous and expects to do so with a set a fresh foreign and Indian players. One of the shrewdest strategists in ISL, Gregory could either see Chennaiyin rise with awe or wreath in agony.
Cuadrat has seen a few faces leave but has signed in a few equally good replacements or better and will therefore start as one of the favourites with consistency and quality in his basket, whereas the same cannot be said about Sergio who prefers to go with the old and tested.
Jorge Costa of Mumbai City impressed with his hard line of defence that allowed his players to attack and Schattorie will want to show with Kerala Blasters that a engine makes a car and not its brand.
Phil Brown joined FC Pune City late last year and now needs to carry the baggage to Hyderabad first and get his boys and himself acclimatised to new surroundings and new owners. Odisha FC’s Josep Gambau has a pretty similar story, only that the place is new but the owners are the same. Both, however, will start with a sense of uncertainty.
Antonio Iriondo and Robert Jarni are the two new faces of ISL with two clubs – Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC – that have had contrasting innings in ISL. NorthEast United FC impressed under Schattorie last season whilst Jamshedpur FC which joined two years back is yet to make its own dent in the tournament.