Antonio Habas: The Kolkata Derby will further enhance the attraction of ISL

The Spaniard has been already hosting online training sessions from Spain before he joined the squad on Sunday…

ATK Mohun Bagan were the first side to reach Goa, the host state for the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Their Spanish contingent of Edu Garcia, Javi Hernandez and Tiri along with coach Antonio Habas and his coaching staff joined the squad soon after, making them the first ISL outfit to fly in their head coach from abroad. 

One of the most successful coaches in ISL history, Habas is keen to put his feet on the pedal after reaching India. In fact, the manager has been hosting online classes for his boys for the past one month to acquaint them with his ideas for the upcoming season. 

“It was tough to travel from Spain to India. It was difficult for the club management as well to get all the necessary paperwork done for our travel. But it’s great to be here in Goa. We have good facilities and everything looks positive. We are trying to adapt to the exceptional circumstances posed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are strictly adhering to the COVID guidelines that have been laid down by the ISL organisers,” Habas said. 

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“I knew that there will be less time for pre-season, so we have been doing online sessions. It is good that we have most of our players here in Goa. Our physical trainer has chalked out tailor-made individual fitness plans for each player. But there are quite a few key players like Roy Krishna and David Williams who are yet to join us. Hopefully, they will arrive soon,” stated the head coach of ATK Mohun Bagan. 

ATK vs Odisha FC

This ISL season is keenly anticipated by Mariners across the world as Bagan are set to make their debut in the competition after merging with ATK. Fans would have flocked to the Salt Lake stadium to cheer for the Green and Maroons, only if the Coronavirus pandemic had not played spoilsport. 

But due to present circumstances, all matches will be held in empty stadiums and Habas feels that playing without fans is a bit disappointing. 

“It is true that without spectators any tournament loses its sheen. But in the current situation, nobody can help it. It’s better to play in an empty stadium rather than not playing at all. And players cannot perform without crowd support are excuses. They must take the pitch with more motivation and positivity.”

Arch-rivals East Bengal have also made their way into ISL after Shree Cement Limited came on board as their investor. Hence, the stage is set for the biggest rivalry in Indian football to get bigger and better. 

Although Habas is well versed with the significance of this fixture, the coach wants to treat the game as just another contest which he will try to win. 

“I am aware of the history that is involved with the Kolkata Derby. I also know that this match is important not only in West Bengal but the entire country. But this match is just another league match for me. We will try to get the three points from this match, as we would in all other matches. The derby is equally important as all other fixtures. But right now I am not thinking about derby. We will think about it when we will have to play it.

“But I would like to say that Kolkata Derby will only enhance the attraction of ISL,” expressed the two-time ISL champion. 

The Bagan management have not only done well to retain the core of the squad from the previous season but have further fortified key positions by signing big-name players like Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan. And Habas knows his players just like the back of his palm.

They will be playing in the AFC Cup as well this season. If the team starts striking the right chords they will definitely be the side to beat. 

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