ISL 2020-21: 'Pity that No People in Stands', Says Hyderabad FC Coach Manuel Marquez
Image from Hyderabad FC training session. (Photo Credit: Hyderabad FC Twitter)
Hyderabad FC had a dreadful debut in the Indian Super League last season and it upto head coach Manuel Marquez to turn it around for them this season. The ISL 2020-21 will be played entirely in Goa in three stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic and the players, coaches and everyone for the tournament in the state has been staying in a bio-bubble. Marquez was appointed Hyderabad's coach after Albert Roca departed to join FC Barcelona's coaching team but the Spaniard was happy to be in India.
"It's a good challenge for me and all the players after last season. We are positive. Before travelling to India, I had two tests I think. In India, during quarantine, one test every 3-4 days and after quarantine, it's pretty much the same. I had to take four flights to reach Goa," Marquez shared in the press conference on Saturday.
"We are lucky people that we can work in these difficult times. We miss our families, not only foreigners but also Indians. But these kind of things make us stronger. It's a very difficult situation all over the world, it's not normal, it is new for all of us and hope this finishes as soon as possible," he added.
Hyderabad striker Aridane Santana also said that the situation was difficult for the team but they have to cope for it. Halicharan Narzary described the ordeal in a bit more detail. "It is very difficult. Since we have come to Goa in the bubble. When we first went for training, we were going in different cars and we couldn't even practice together. In the bubble, we can't meet too many people, we only get to spend time during food and such."
FIRST GAME PREPARATION
Hyderabad begin their season against Odisha FC on Monday and Marquez said he had a fair idea of the formation he wanted to play but it was too early to be decisive about it. He said he wanted to wait for a couple of more training sessions they have. "The first game is always very important because everyone likes to start with a win. But I'd rather lose the first and win the next 19 instead of the opposite."
Marquez conceded that two players - Dimple Bhagat and Fran Sandaza - were injured but the latter was recovery and might even make it to the squad. "It is a normal situation in all teams. For eg, yesterday in the first game a player got injured for ATK Mohun Bagan so I think that will be the situation throughout the season."
None of the teams have been able to have adequate pre-season time and the situation is the same for NorthEast United FC. Narzary admitted the lack of preparation time but believed that it would have no real impact on invidual performance.
Hyderabad played four friendlies in pre-season. They beat FC Goa 4-2, drew 1-1 with Bengaluru FC but lost 2-1 to NorthEast United FC and 2-0 to Kerala Blasters. However, Marquez does not make much of pre-season results. ". I also tell my players that friendly games in pre-season is a kind of training session," he said.
He gave the example of ATK Mohun Bagan, who had played no friendlies in the pre-season but still won the season opener. "For me, the most important thing is to arrive well for the first game."
Marquez said it was difficult to judge any team early on as the pre-season has been extremely unusual. "Odisha have a very experienced coach but he was in quarantine till about 10 days ago and they played only two friendlies. In the current situation, in the beginning, it is difficult to know how teams will do."
NO FAN CONUNDRUM
Marquez stated that not having fans in the stadium is a "negative" situation for each and every team. "The fans are the most important and if you play in empty stadium, it is worse. We like to play with full stands. It's a pity that there are no people in the stands," he said, adding that the situation though was the same for all teams and home and away format won't really matter.
The head coach felt the level of competition in the ISL was going to be stiff as the level of all the teams was more or less similar. He added that the Indian players were getting better and felt that teams with more continuity in their squad might have a slight edge.
Santana, who is going to be in the ISL for the second season running also said that the league was improving and was becoming more competitive.