The late announcement from the Pune franchise came because of former coach Antonio Habas’ commitments after January.
Pune: Maharashtra-based Indian Super League (ISL) team FC Pune City signed a contract with new coach Ranko Popovic earlier this week. While all their counterparts had their coaches on board a while back, this could be a disadvantage for the team. CEO Gaurav Modwel feels the same but he thinks the team can cope up as there are still around two months to go for the league to begin.
The late announcement from the Pune franchise came because of former coach Antonio Habas’ commitments after January. With addition of two new teams Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC, the league’s span has increased from three months to five months due to which Habas had to part ways from the club. Modwel explains, “We signed Antonio in 2016 and his contract expires by the end of December. He was not aware of the extension of two months so he had other commitments post December. Although we were contemplating over it, the board had to take a call and so we did.”
The Spanish coach Habas has been a part of the ISL since 2014 where he was coaching Atletico de Kolkata. Under his reign, the Pune outfit did not reach the best of heights either. They finished in the sixth position last season, winning just four games out of 14.
The new manager Popovic could be a blessing in disguise for FC Pune City. He has an experience of around 15 years in coaching during which he has won two titles — the Thai League Cup and Mekong Club Championship (ASEAN Football Federation) to his name. In 2014-15, he went to Spain to coach Segunda Division club Real Zaragoza where he led them to the finals of the La Liga play-offs. A season later, he joined Thai Premier League champions Buriram United FC where he won the Thai League Cup and Mekong Club Championship.
“He has an aggressive style of play, which we liked. While scouting him, we learned that 15 youngsters who played under him made it to the Japan national team. He will have around 45-odd days to train with the team and I think it is sufficient,” says Modwel
The Stallions retained just two players, Vishal Kaith and Ashique Kuruniyan, from last season, which leaves them with 23 new players in the team with a major chunk of youngsters in the side. Modwel says it is a long-term plan. “We are not just looking at this season but we want to build a strong squad for the coming season, which is why we have got a lot of youngsters,” he says.
Pune will start their campaign against Delhi Dynamos in an away game on November 22. The team is currently practising in Pune and not travelling this season unlike the last two seasons. Modwel feels that the infrastructure and the facilities have improved in India. “We started the trend two years ago of travelling to other countries but I don’t think it is needed now. We did it because of the rains but now the season has passed and the drainage system is fantastic,” he asserts.
“Our major challenge this season will be to use our youngsters well because we lack experience in our squad when it comes to the local lads,” he further adds.
The Indian players in the squad started practicing from September 17 in Pune where they will be joined by the foreign players on October 2.