Last season, the Tamil-Nadu based club finished eighth in the points table, failing to qualify for the playoffs under Romanian Csaba Laszlo.
For the new season, 52-year old Montenegrin Bozidar Bandovic will lead the team.
“Almost all the players have arrived in Goa and are in quarantine as per ISL laid guidelines. We have planned eight weeks pre-season,” said Pratham Basu, the Head of Football Operations at Chennaiyin FC.
Head of Football Operations is a position where the person sitting in this chair looks after every aspect of the club. The role cannot be defined very accurately but ‘a person who is responsible for transfer dealing and player recruitment, a person who is answerable to board (owners of the club), also assists the manager in needed aspects, and make sure the day-to-day operations in a club run smoothly’ and much more things are involved.
Pratham Basu was with Chennaiyin FC earlier as Team Manager when Indian Super League commenced back in 2014. Later, Basu had different roles in other Indian clubs like Delhi Dynamos, RoundGlass Punjab & SC East Bengal. Now as Chennaiyin FC aim for the title in the upcoming season, the backroom staff has worked hard to bring in coach like Bozidar Bandovic & sign some key foreign players and Indians.
“We have signed players as we wanted, for particular positions,” Basu said. “The pool of Indian players is getting bigger. We have seen players who came up through I-League and performed extremely well in Indian Super League.“
Chennaiyin FC managed to rope in some players like Ninthoi Meetei, Debjit Majumder, Salam Ranjan Singh, Narayan Das, Deepak Devrani, Jobby Justin and others in the transfer window.
It’s no more a secret about how inflated the Indian football market is. The release clauses set by some clubs for players are very high. Basu admitted ‘market inflation can’t be a factor‘ for team building.
“If there’s inflation in the market, then it will help youngsters to come and perform well. I believe inflation can’t be a factor because money can’t win championships.”
From 2014 to 2021, the club saw four managers leading the team from the sidelines. On the other hand, ISL club like FC Goa have had only two head coaches before Juan Ferrando arrived last year.
“It’s a tricky thing,” Basu says.
“Continuity is always good. The main factor here is, all the parties involved around the coach or even players need to agree with each other. The association can be longer if everyone is happy.“
Speaking about recruitment, the Indian Super League allows six foreigners in the squad. Earlier, the league saw some young foreign players joining and making an impact and guiding Indian players to give their best. Basu believes that the quality of football in ISL has immensely grown and raised as years have passed.
“Whoever the foreign player is, either it can be young or experienced once, if the project is good enough and the player feels that they can fit here well, it won’t be challenging to bring them.
“The clubs aren’t opting for big names now but are bringing in good prospects who will take the league to a higher level,” he said.
23-year old Bright Enobakhare is an example who was signed in the winter window of the 2020-21 season by SC East Bengal when Pratham Basu served there as Head of Operations.
The organisers of ISL – FSDL (Football Sports Development Ltd.), recently proposed a new league to the clubs for their under-21 players. The league is said to be running for two months.
“The concept is fantastic. It will give a platform to a lot of young talents in the country. Clubs can push youngsters for this who don’t get enough game time in ISL.”
“It will be a pathway for clubs to promote talent to the senior team as needed.“
“Chennaiyin FC has always encouraged young prospects to come and express themselves. Thapa, Chhangte, Vishal Kaith, Jerry, and others came in as youngsters and are now doing well. We have that mentality so that we will continue by this way,” Basu told IFTWC.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the ISL was held behind closed doors last season, while the same will be followed this year. “It’s a new normal, and this is the way we have to go ahead,” he said
“We want all the support from fans; currently, social media is the way they are showing their love. We will dive into pre-season first and later ISL.
“Everyone is focused and motivated to do well and bring back happiness and joy for the fans. We are aiming to be Champions,” concluded Basu.
How many points will Chennaiyin FC have at the end of league stage and if qualified for playoffs, can they lift the trophy for third time remians to be seen!
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