The ISL has come to represent the resurrection of football in India as it commences its new season on September 21 with an encounter between Kerala Blasters FC and Bengaluru FC at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Head coaches along with players from different clubs like Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC, FC Goa, Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC came together to discuss the development of the league and their teams’ preparations for the upcoming season of the Indian Super League at a hotel in Bengaluru.
Established players in the circuit like Sunil Chhetri of Bengaluru FC and Rahul Bheke of Mumbai City FC along with rising stars like Chinglensana Singh of Hyderabad FC and Nemil of FC Goa acknowledged the enhancements of infrastructure and exposure that the Indian Super League has provided them to advance in their football careers.
“Most Competitive ISL” said Simon Grayson, the Bengaluru FC gaffer
After guiding the side to the ISL final last season with Bengaluru FC, Head coach Simon Grayson is about to start his second season with the Blues and he is expecting a more tougher season this time around. Teams have improved after the transfer deadline, and those that missed the playoffs in the previous season will try to make amends in 2023–24.
“With BFC, we are used to winning titles. There is no point going into the tournament if you think that you can’t win the title. This is going to be one of the best ISLs in terms of the level of competition. We have set our ambitions and that’s the big trophy,” he added.
Sunil Chhetri, the captain of Bengaluru FC, highlighted an upsurge in football standards in the league and believed it would motivate young players vying for spots on the Indian national team to further develop their game. Chhetri, who has scored the most goals for India in the history of the league, mentioned Sandesh Jhingan as an example of a young player who has enhanced his game by competing in the ISL.
“With every year, the standard of the league is getting better with better players coming in. Sandesh (Jhingan) is one example. He improved as a youngster playing against the likes of Coro, (Barth) Ogbeche and Miku. The holistic and scientific training is a big help for the youngsters,” he added.
“I think the ISL has done a brilliant job for the last 10 years,” added Chinglensana Singh of Hyderabad FC at the ISL Media Day
Chinglensana Singh, the young defender for Hyderabad FC, concurred with the Indian captain that working with international athletes had improved Indian athletes. Singh joined the ISL as a youngster and has currently made a name for himself as one of the best center-backs in the nation. He will be in charge of leading and directing the Hyderabad FC back line this season as well as improving his leadership and organisational abilities.
“I think the ISL has done a brilliant job for the last 10 years. When ISL came into the picture, many players came and Indian players developed massively. The quality of players we play with helps the domestic players honestly and you can see the result of the National Team players,” he added during the ISL Media Day at Bengaluru.
Conor Nestor, the new gaffer for Hyderabad FC added, “We’ve found some good players to join us this season and quality-wise, I couldn’t be happier working with this squad. Our main focus is to define what we are about, learn how we are going to play together and commit to that. The aim is to try and put the best product possible on the field for our fans, our city and the state that we are living in“
“We may not be the biggest club in the league but we sure can still be the best” said Owen Coyle who is back with Chennaiyin FC
Owen Coyle is back in India after boldly sailing the Jamshedpur FC ship to the ISL League Winners Shield in 2021/22, and has now been given the responsibility of improving Chennaiyin FC’s performance this year. He has demonstrated a willingness to turn around a failing ship, as seen in 2019–20 when he took over the Marina Machans midway through the season and led them to the final game in spectacular style. Coyle wants to replicate the process and improve upon it this time.
He said, “Chennaiyin is always a special feeling because there are such good people. We may not be the biggest club in the league but we sure can still be the best. To do that we need several things – a lot of things, but the good thing is we know how to get up, and we know how to be champions.”
The main issue that Chennaiyin FC faced last season was lack of goal-scoring prowess in the team. But, with the addition of players like Conor Shields and Jordan Murray, the Marina Machans will be expecting tons of goals this season.
When asked about how the team can overcome last year’s issue of scoring goals to Jordan Murray, he said, “I am here to score goals. There here is a lot of pressure before any new season, especially when you are playing in a position like this. But, I am confident that along with the other players, Chennaiyin FC will be able to pose an attacking threat.”
“I was talking to the coaches outside and there is a lot of hype behind this season” said Mumbai City FC’s coach, Des Buckingham
Des Buckingham, the head coach of the Islanders, praised how much the ISL has evolved as he begins his third season in India. Additionally, he addressed the difficulties that the next season would provide given the numerous international breaks and the fact that his squad would also be playing in the AFC Champions League.
“I was talking to the coaches outside and there is a lot of hype behind this season; obviously with it being the 10th season. It’s my third season here and I think across the clubs, when I look at what the league may have been three-four years ago, and what it is now with how the clubs have set themselves up year upon year, that’s exciting.”
“Because what you see is the players being able to perform to the levels that we see now. We are starting to see more excitement in the games because of that. It shows why we have been able to showcase what we did last year in terms of our playing style and of course, the requisite work taking us there.” Buckingham explained.
“There is better competition and there is ambition amongst young Indian players” said Udanta Singh who joined FC Goa from Bengaluru FC this season
The players were filled with eagerness for the upcoming season. They expressed gratitude for the chances the ISL provided them, the enhancements it has made to the infrastructure, and even the way it has inspired players to have more ambitious goals and aims.
Udanta Singh, a recent addition to FC Goa, said: “With each season, the league and players are getting better and I am sure that as the players are getting younger, there is better competition, and there is ambition amongst young Indian players. They work harder and also just make sure that they get in better conditions. They will keep getting better as long as they keep working hard.”
FC Goa Head coach, Manolo Marquez, along with players like Noah Sadaoui, Udanta Singh, and Muhammed Nemil, made time out of their busy preseason schedules to attend the ISL 2023-24 Media Day and they discussed about the forthcoming league season and other topics.
“In every interview I say that it’s very dangerous to speak before the competition. We know that we want to be the Cup winners. But, for now, the goal is to arrive at our first match of the season in the best possible way,” Manolo Marquez said, highlighting the significance of player fitness and training sessions.
The Spaniard also spoke about his team in FC Goa, “I think that for a person like me who is from a country where football is like a religion, I think it’s a very nice challenge and a very nice idea to sign with a club like FC Goa.“
“I’m very happy, and confident that the season will be very good for us. For me, pressure is another reason why I think coaches enjoy this profession, as it is a part and parcel of what we do. I’m enjoying the situation too,” he added.
On September 21, 2023, Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC square off at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to begin the ISL’s tenth season.
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