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I-League: Neroca FC to Employ 'Tiki-taka' Style Under new Spanish Coach

After a runners-up finish last season, Manipur's Neroca FC are trying to adopt a "Tiki-taka" style of play under new Spanish coach Manuel Retamero Fraile in their bid to lift the I-League crown this season.

PTI

Updated:October 26, 2018, 6:02 PM IST
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I-League: Neroca FC to Employ 'Tiki-taka' Style Under new Spanish Coach
After a runners-up finish last season, Manipur's Neroca FC are trying to adopt a "Tiki-taka" style of play under new Spanish coach Manuel Retamero Fraile in their bid to lift the I-League crown this season.
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New Delhi: After a runners-up finish last season, Manipur's Neroca FC are trying to adopt a "Tiki-taka" style of play under new Spanish coach Manuel Retamero Fraile in their bid to lift the I-League crown this season.

In their debut season last year, Neroca surprised one and all by finishing second behind Minerva Punjab. Local coach Gift Raikhan's direct and attacking style brought results despite having little experience of playing at the top-flight football earlier.

At one stage, Neroca were leading the league standings and they lost the title to Minerva only on the last match day.

The Imphal-based club was run on shoestring budget but they stood up against big teams like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Neroca played out draws against East Bengal on both legs while losing one match and drawing the other against Mohun Bagan.

With Raikhan moving to the neighbouring state of Mizoram as head coach of former I-League champions Aizawl, his direct football has also left the Manipur side with Spaniard Manuel Retamero Fraile at the helm now.

Retamero, who was with Aizawl FC in 2015-16, has brought in a different style of football based on possession, build-up from the deep and little use of long ball.

"We have a new Spanish coach and there will be a change in style, it may not be a complete change but it is substantial. Under Raikhan, it was direct football, using long balls most of the time. Under the new coach we will have little use of long balls, except for crosses and dead-ball situations," Neroca captain Lalit Thapa said.

"The new style is all about short passes, build-up from the deep but attacking football. It is akin to Tika-Taka style of Spain."

Tiki-taka is a Spanish style of play characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession.

Neroca open their campaign against East Bengal at home on Saturday.

Thapa, who mans the Neroca goal, said the players were adapting to the new style which was even alien to the football culture of the small state.

"For most of the clubs in Manipur and the youngsters as well, it is all about direct football, using long balls. So, it is different from our football culture in Manipur but we are hoping this will bring results to us and we are able to win the title this time," said the player from Imphal.

Apart from signing a new coach, Neroca have also brought in three new foreigners, including seasoned attacking midfielder Katsumi Yusa who has plied his trade with Mohun Bagan and East Bengal earlier.

Brazil-born defender Eduardo Ferreira joined from East Bengal while Italian Mauro Boerchio is the reserve goalkeeper. Most of the home grown players have, however, been retained.

While with Aizawl FC in 2015-16, Retamero was known for his attacking football though the Mizoram side ended at eighth among nine teams. Last year, he helped Ulaanbaatar FC to finish second in Mongolian top division.

Asked about Neroca's title chances, Thapa said, "We are gunning for the title or at least we have to finish second but not below this. Last year, our target was to finish at top four and we ended at second. The people of Manipur will not accept anything below the last year performance."
| Edited by: Arjit Dabas
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