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ISL: ‘Aware of history, rivalry of East Bengal-Mohun Bagan derby,’ says Antonio Lopes Habas

ISL: ‘Aware of history, rivalry of East Bengal-Mohun Bagan derby,’ says Antonio Lopes Habas

The Bridge Desk

Published: 9 Oct 2020 7:38 AM GMT

Two-time Indian Super League (ISL) winning coach Antonio Lopes Habas has joined ATK Mohun Bagan FC at the team hotel in Goa and ever since arriving he has been monitoring the players’ training sessions and routines amid restrictions due to Covid-19. The Spanish coach discussed his thoughts ahead of the upcoming ISL season. Following are excerpts:

Q> You are the first coach to arrive in Goa for ISL. How are you feeling?

Habas: It was tough to travel from Spain to India. It was difficult for the club management as well to get all the necessary paperwork done for our travel. But it's great to be here in Goa. We have good facilities and everything looks positive. We are trying to adapt to the exceptional circumstances posed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are strictly adhering to the COVID guidelines that have been laid down by the ISL organisers

Q> Usually, you prefer a minimum 45-day pre-season. But this time, owing to the circumstances, it will be much shorter. Will it affect the team’s performance in the tournament?

Habas: I knew that there will be less time for pre-season, so we have been doing online sessions. It is good that we have most of our players here in Goa. Our physical trainer has chalked out tailor-made individual fitness plans for each player. But there are quite a few key players like Roy Krishna and David Williams who are yet to join us. Hopefully, they will arrive soon.

ATK Mohun Bagan FC head coach Antonio Habas (Source: ISL)

Q> Do you think that playing without spectators will be psychologically a disadvantage for the players?

Habas: It is true that without spectators any tournament loses its sheen. But in the current situation, nobody can help it. It's better to play in an empty stadium rather than not playing at all. And players cannot perform without crowd support are excuses. They must take the pitch with more motivation and positivity.

Q> East Bengal will be playing in the ISL this year and you will have to face them in the Derby at least twice… The excitement around the Kolkata derby is almost the same as that around the Madrid derby… This match is important for not only football fans in Bengal, but Green and Maroon fans worldwide wait for this match every season… it’s about the bragging rights… As important as it to be champions, it is also important to win the derby. How much importance will you give to the derby?

Habas: I am well aware of the history and rivalry that is involved with the Kolkata Derby. I also know that this match is important not only in West Bengal but the entire country. But this match is just another league match for me. We will try to get the three points from this match, as we would in all other matches. The derby is equally important as all other fixtures. But right now I am not thinking about derby. We will think about it when we will have to play it. But I can assure you that Kolkata Derby will only enhance the attraction of ISL.

Q> Any messages for the Green and Maroon fans before the start of the season?

Habas: I know there will be a lot of expectations from us this season. I can only promise that we will respect the opposition and do our best to bring pride to the Green and Maroon fans.

(As told to ATK Mohun Bagan media team)

Also read: Antonio Habas’ plan to do it again and ATK Mohun Bagan FC’s best XI

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