Geared up for the new season

I’ve been part of the League for two seasons and I’ve enjoyed both of them. But this season has got me more excited. The League is now longer, there are more teams and every side is starting with a blank slate.

“Our AFC Cup commitments meant we assembled a lot earlier than any of the teams in the ISL. And I hope this holds us in good stead for the rest of the season,” the author says.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The intense photo-shoots, press conferences and pre-season friendlies are all over, and we are days away from the fourth season of the Indian Super League. There is already a buzz in the air.

I’ve been part of the League for two seasons and I’ve enjoyed both of them. But this season has got me more excited. The League is now longer, there are more teams and every side is starting with a blank slate. Teams have chopped and changed massively, new coaches have taken charge at most clubs and there’s absolutely nothing that you can take as a given.

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The League may have a longer calendar with ten teams this season, but it doesn’t change the fact that the margin for error is very less if you want to reach the play-off stage. You can’t really afford to take your time to settle in an 18-game season and a lot will be determined from the side-lines.

The draft system this season meant that we start almost from scratch. It also means that we will be coming up against so many of the lads who have shared some great seasons in the dressing room with us in the past. But that’s football — you reminisce, laugh about the good times and then get down to business once the action begins.

“It’s nice to have John Johnson, who missed the AFC Cup due to personal commitments, back in the team,” Chhetri writes.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

 

The idea at the draft was to get back as many players who have played for the club last season as they know the system that the coaching staff has so tirelessly worked on. And we were successful in executing that plan to a large extent. As soon as the team was picked, we assembled in Spain for what was a fantastic two weeks of pre-season.

I wouldn’t really call it a massive advantage, but our AFC Cup commitments meant we assembled a lot earlier than any of the teams in the ISL. And I hope this holds us in good stead for the rest of the season. We played very tough opponents in 4.25 SC (North Korea) and eventual finalists FC Istiklol (Tajikistan) and those four games have done us a world of good in terms of preparation.

We’ve also added four foreigners to the squad for the ISL and we’ve been getting better as a unit with each training session. The boys have struck a nice rapport off the pitch too and that plays a big part.

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It’s nice to have John Johnson, who missed the AFC Cup due to personal commitments, back in the team. With him returning, we’re the only two current BFC players who have been with the club since its inception in 2013 and it’s a really nice feeling.

Incidentally, my first game with BFC in the ISL comes against the only other team that I’ve played for in the League. Mumbai City FC was a short but fantastic journey, one in which I was treated well by the owners, management, staff and fans and I will always have respect for the club.

While rivalries on the pitch will be forged over the coming months, the ones in the stands have already gathered much steam, even before we have kicked a ball! Social media spaces are high on banter and I get caught in the crossfire the moment someone tags me. But it’s nice to see this and Indian football could surely do with more such attention.

The ISL loves putting on a spectacle every season and I’m pretty sure teams won’t be deviating from the script. Bring on Sunday already!