SC East Bengal head coach Robbie Fowler answered the media's questions before his team's Indian Super League (ISL) debut. The Red and Golds begin their ISL campaign with a clash against arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan FC on Friday. Fowler spoke about his side's preparations, the Kolkata Derby and much more. Excerpts:
On Diego Maradona’s sad demise
It is a huge loss for football. He was an idol for me growing up. We know he has had his troubles off the field but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was one of the best players ever to play football. It’s a very big loss for a lot of people and he will be missed.
On his side’s preparations for the season
We’ve prepared well, we’ve prepared right. We know it has been a really short pre-season but we will have to adapt to whatever is in front of us. We have a few niggles and aches and pains, but that is expected and will happen throughout the league. It feels like it has been forever waiting for the game, thankfully it is here. Ideally we’d have loved a little more time but we have adapted well. We are behind by a couple of weeks in terms of preparation but we are doing what we can. Our motivation is to play well and get the right results.
On his time in India so far and if his experience of the Merseyside derby will come in handy in the derby
I’m enjoying India immensely. It has been different training inside the bubble. The players are enjoying training and are ready. At this point the games can't quite come quick enough. The experience of playing in the Merseyside derby won’t have any bearing on this as I’m not a player this time around. My job will be to give good advice to the players. Make sure they are sensible and do not get carried away. We have to play the game the right way.
On how the team is shaping up
We’ve enjoyed working with the team to be honest. When you are in this kind of a situation where everyone’s on top of each other it can go either way. But we are lucky that we have a good group of players. From the bus drivers, the photographers, the social media team to the players and the coaching staff, we are one all-inclusive team. We want to love the game a little more and want to do that by getting the right results together.
On if his players will derive extra motivation due to his presence
As I said, we play the game because we love it. If my players are extra motivated because I’m there then they are in the wrong sport. They should be extra motivated anyway, no matter who the coach is or who the opponent is. That is how I look at it.
On the facilities that the team have access to
I’m very happy with the facilities. Everything has been brilliant so far. The hotel is fantastic, getting to the training ground is a bit of a drive but it is what it is. We’ve not seen the ground yet because we weren’t allowed to go there but it’s a football match and getting a chance to play is all that matters. We can’t wait to get started.
On ATK Mohun Bagan and the threat they possess
ATK are a team that have 80-90% of the players who won the league last season. We know how good they are, we know how good their coach is and we know how compact they are. I know some of the players myself like (Brad) Inman and (Roy) Krishna but we are focused on us. Although they are a new entity they have been together for a good few years now. We are a new team and are massive underdogs for the match. But sometimes underdogs win and that is what we want to do.
On the ISL’s appeal globally
The A-League has been in some trouble for the last couple of years. So it has become a good opportunity for players there to come to India to play in a good league and maybe try and improve it. We have a few of them ourselves. Over 20 players have come into the ISL from Australia. Their coming here will help the league and should make the league more competitive.
On the absence of fans
Ideally you would want the fans because players love playing in front of them. Right now we know that the fans are with us in spirit. We will try and focus on the game and not the peripherals because it is the same for all the teams. The weather here in Goa won’t be a problem. The evening games mean it’s going to be cool. If you start looking for excuses you can find them but we don’t want to. We know and understand the current situation in the world. Someday, the fans will return but till then we will have to deal with it. My message for them would be to keep supporting us. I know they will. The support for this team is incredible and I thank every single fan who will be watching the match.