ISL 2019-20: The league has grown more professional over years, says Antonio Habas
"The Hero ISL was not the same competition. Now it is much more professional. There are better coaches, better players, more teams, more time in the competition," he said the title winning coach.
ATK FC head coach Antonio Habas who has become the first coach in the history of Indian Super League (ISL) to win the ISL trophy twice, feels that the league has become more professional over the years with the coming in of better players and support staff.
Habas achieved the distinction when ATK FC defeated Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in the final of the season six of the league at Fatroda Stadium in Goa on 14 March.
The Spanish coach had guided ATK FC to their maiden title back in 2014 but he emphasized that team's latest title is more important than its first title.
ATK FC became the first team in the history of the Indian Super League to win the league title three times. (Image: Twitter/ISL)
"It's different because in the first season, the Hero ISL was not the same competition. Now it is much more professional. There are better coaches, better players, more teams, more time in the competition," he said.
"This title is more important than the first, but the first was also important because it was the first title," Habas added.
The club too etched its name in the record books as it became the first side to win the ISL title thrice, having also won the trophy in 2016.
Chennaiyin FC, which lost the summit clash had won the title in 2015 and in 2017.
Habas credited the collective effort of the team as the reason behind their latest title after injuries to key players early in the season created problems.
"We are a group always, inside and outside of the pitch. This is important. We had big problems with injuries to Carl McHugh, then Agus (Iniguez) and in the final, the problem to (Krishna) Roy. But the strength of the team was the collective effort," he said.
"His (Carl McHugh) injury was a big miss. With the problem with Agus, the team was in a problem for two, three matches. But the strength of the group salvaged the situation. When you have individual problems, the only solution is the team, the collective. The mix between Indian and foreign players was fantastic this season." Habbas explained.
The 62-year-old admitted that his side did not play well in the second half of the final and his players were nervous.
"I think the match had two different parts. In the first half after the initial few minutes, we were better than Chennaiyin. And after that in the second half, with the injury to Roy (Krishna), the team was nervous. We could not find the necessary personnel to keep scoring and kill the match off. In the second half, the team did not play well. Even though we did not play well, we had fantastic character. In some matches, you can win with the heart," he said.
Asked about the secret behind his success with ATK, Habas said, "ATK has people that love me, like I love ATK. I have a special connect with ATK since the first season and it continues. We are a family. This is amazing. This is the secret.