Chennaiyin FC's new head coach Csaba Laszlo on Tuesday said it will be a challenge for players to play in empty stadiums during the upcoming ISL season and they need to prepare themselves psychologically to overcome it. In wake of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, tournaments are being conducted in empty stadiums across the globe and it will be no different for the Indian Super League which is scheduled to be held in Goa in November behind closed doors.
"Yes it is a challenge. Our players are used to the fans passionately supporting them in the stadium. But now it will be reduced to them supporting us only virtually and through social media. We need to be prepared psychologically," Laszlo told PTI. "And I think now people will notice the game even more closely in an empty stadium. We have to create a positive atmosphere within the team. And to know that our fans are always with us. If we can do this, we can overcome the hurdle of playing in an empty stadium."
Asked if the coronavirus-induced break would affect the players, Laszlo said it could have an impact on the mental aspect. "No one team or coach can work properly, physically with the team. How is it possible for the players to follow what the coaches say, because in India everything is in lockdown. The biggest effect is here (in the head)," the 56-year old Hungarian said. Laszlo, who is taking over as head coach from Owen Coyle, gave a thumbs up to idea of holding the upcoming edition in one place. "This is a good idea from ISL to bring the league in one place, protect them and say just concentrate on football," he said.
Laszlo, who is taking up his maiden coaching assignment in Asia, said ISL is a growing league and there was a need to discover more and more talents. "I have studied the ISL closely. It is a growing league. Every year the ISL continues to attract more people, more fans, more attention. That is why I am a little bit sad that the upcoming season will be played without fans in the stadium. That is the biggest challenge for every team, not just us," he said. "On the other side, we also have to accept that football is not the number one sport in India. But we are moving in the right direction to improve the popularity of football. We have to discover more and more talents from a populous country like India. To make football more attractive for kids."
The Hungarian said it is important to find the balance between the number of Indian and foreign players in a team. "It is important to find the balance between the number of Indian and foreign players in the team. Play foreign players who can improve the quality of Indian players and their football education. These foreigners come from different countries that have better football culture. At the same time, it is also important to ensure the Indian players have the possibility and opportunity to play regularly. We are seeing that football is an upcoming sport in India that needs to be made more popular," he added.
About two-time champion CFC, which reached the ISL final last year after being at the bottom of the points table, Laszlo said he expects more consistency from the team. "... we need to have more consistency. We have to find the right balance. How we can begin high and finish high, that is the target," he said. Lithuanian forward Nerijus Valskis, who had led Chennaiyin FC to the ISL final last season by scoring 15 goals, has joined Jamshedpur FC for the next two seasons. Asked if the process of finding replacements for some players is on, Laszlo said, "Definitely the answer is yes. We have to replace some important players. Already we have identified players who can fit into the team."