Chennaiyin FC set to go all out for their third ISL title after a lackluster campaign last year

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Chennaiyin
Chennaiyin

Chennaiyin FC has gone for a complete revamp of their managerial staff and foreign players this year in the transfer market, also adding some impressive Indian names to the roster. IFTWC caught up with the club’s Head of Football Operations, Mr. Pratham Basu in an exclusive interview recently where he talked about why Chennaiyin decided to get Božidar Bandović as their new head coach, Anirudh Thapa’s contract extension, signing Ninthoi, and much more.

Despite considering coaches like Peter Butler, Bruno Pereira, and Curtis Fleming for the position, Chennaiyin decided to go forward with Montenegrin Božidar Bandović, who has an abundance of experience in coaching teams in Asia during his time in Thailand.

Chennaiyin FC set to go all out for their third ISL title after a lackluster campaign last year cfc min

“He comes with a very good coaching experience, succeeding exceedingly well in Asia before. The most important thing was his style of play, which is how Chennaiyin would like to play.”

Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte are two of the most promising Indian players around and their contracts with Chennaiyin will expire next year. Speaking about their renewal process, Mr. Basu said, “The players are more focused on the upcoming season. As a club, we are looking into it. There have been discussions and there will be more, but nothing (concrete) as of now.”

Most ISL clubs have opted for having two foreign centre-backs in their squad. Chennai, however, has gone ahead with only one natural central defender in Slavko Damjanovic.

“Chennai has signed only one foreign defender, but Ariel (Borysiuk) can play both as a defensive midfielder and as a centre-back. Slavko will play all the games, but if required, we have players to fill his role there and not only international players; We have a great Indian contingent.”

A deal for Ninthoi Meetei was struck on the deadline day of the transfer window with only a few hours remaining.

“It was a very interesting deal that happened. Everyone is talking about the deadline day move. All parties involved were eager to get this through, and thus, it went ahead and we were just on time to complete the deal. He is a very exciting prospect and we are happy to have him on the team. Hopefully, he has a great season ahead with us.”

The Indian Super League will again be played within the bio-bubble which was a great success last year. The entire tournament was played out without any hassle and medical protection was maintained for the team and the coaching staff.

Regarding the bio-bubble and whether it ever became a factor in a foreign signing, Mr. Basu said, “Not for us. Whenever we have spoken with any of the players or the coaches, they were absolutely fine. They understand that India as a country has its individual challenges. We can’t compare our situation with any other leagues happening around the globe. Last year, the league was played within the bio-bubble, and it was a fantastic success. It’s a new normal and this is the way we have to go ahead.”

Mr. Basu was a vital part of SC East Bengal and helped manage the players and the coaches and their recruiting process. On being asked whether he had talks with Debjit Majumdar and Narayan Das prior to them joining CFC, he said, “The players we have signed, we have always spoken with them individually, we have explained how we see them in our squad and that has excited all the players, especially Narayan and Debjit. Both of them are fantastic players.”

Marquee signings were a massive hit among the fans in the early ISL seasons. Elano Blumer and Marco Materazzi achieved success with Chennai as marquee players. In fact, Basu was an integral part of the Materazzi era at the club, working in close quarters with the manager.

Chennaiyin FC set to go all out for their third ISL title after a lackluster campaign last year cfcc min
Photo Courtesy – Chennaiyin FC

“Marquee is a terminology. It depends on how you view it, whether you want to bring in someone who is a big name in Europe, or someone who will help the team. That is a thing we need to understand. A big name like Marco Materazzi was fantastic when he was here. I think the clubs are not opting for such big names and bringing in good foreign prospects, who will heighten the level of the league. Last year, the game became immensely fast, every team was playing good attacking football and every fan who watched the games on television enjoyed the quality of the game.”

ISL has seen the influx of many Spanish and Brazilian players this year. However, none of Chennaiyin FC’s foreign signings belong to these two nations. On this approach, Mr. Basu said –

“We have not recruited players based on their nationality. We have brought foreigners who will bring balance to our squad and make us stronger for the upcoming season. We have got the players we wanted in the particular positions and we’re happy with our signings.”

After finishing a lowly 8th last season, the Marina Machans will look to turn their fortunes around with a new head coach. They will kick off their ISL campaign against Hyderabad FC on 23rd November at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolin.

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