The current manager of Hyderabad FC spoke to us about his experience of coaching in India and how he led HFC to a respectable fifth-place finish in his debut Indian Super League season.
As we fans fondly call him, Manolo Roca replaced Albert Roca as the new coach of Hyderabad FC in early 2020, when Albert Roca joined FC Barcelona's coaching staff under Ronald Koeman. Everything was not going in favor of HFC last year and they would not have expected much after they had to change their coach just before the start of the season. In comes Manolo Marquez to coach a team in India for the first time, without having much say in the squad he wanted, and almost leads them to the play-offs. He turned the fortunes for the club, in a way probably no one had seen before.
One of the things that stood out for Hyderabad FC was how the coach integrated Indian players into his system and how the Indian players played with his style of play. Here is what Manolo had to say about his first season in the Indian Super League.
"Firstly, I do not like to speak about the time I was not here, i.e., 19-20 season. It will be very disrespectful for me to do it. The only thing I can say is that it is always a very difficult first season in the ISL. Just look at East Bengal, for example. They have outstanding players, one of the teams with the best foreigners, but always the first season is very difficult."
"About our last season. It was about many things. My explanation might be a long one about it. One of the unique things was the connection between all the people in the club. I am not speaking only about the players and the staff, but everyone thought in the same direction. It's easier when everyone is on the same plane. We had a lot of problems with injuries, especially the foreign players. The young players showed the talent they have. Everyone told me that I am a brave coach that plays young players, but I see every day how these players train. They deserve to play and will be important players for India in the future."
"In our second game against Bengaluru, two foreigners got injured in the first half. At half-time, everyone's face was down. Hitesh and Yasir came on for them and surprised everyone. They showed their quality, and I was so happy to see them change the game. The thing that made me happiest was when coach Igor Stimac called six of our players for the national team camps."
Manolo Roca selected only three foreigners in some matches owing to injuries, but the Indian players never let him down. And the fans applauded him for trusting Indian players and giving them a chance to express themselves on the football pitch. HFC finished fifth in the league, missing out on the playoffs in the last week of the regular season. It was major improvement in terms of the season before Manolo was present when they finished at the bottom of the league. The next year, the club will be hoping that Manolo goes one step further and takes Hyderabad to the playoffs.
The team at The Bridge had an exclusive chat with Manolo, and he shared his experience of his first year in India, his spell with Hyderabad FC, and much more. Keep following us more to read more.