Antonio Habas: ‘My goal is to build a competitive team’

Habas, who had led ATK to the ISL title in 2014, looks ahead to the new season. “I am very happy to be back,” he says.

He’s back: Antonio Lopez Habas interacts with the media in Kolkata on Thursday.   -  PTI

The return of head coach Antonio Habas is buoying up the spirits in the ATK squad as the inaugural Indian Super League champion looks to regain its pre-eminence in the country’s premier club championship.

Habas, who helped ATK clinch the title in the opening season and guided it to the playoff next season, said the team is in the right shape to revive the title pursuit ahead of the new season.

“We have put in a lot of hard work to build a competitive team. I am very happy to be back and am excited about the new season to start,” Habas said in his introductory news conference after being back as the ATK coach. “We have prepared the team well. The most important thing is that we don’t have a single player injured until this morning. The players are improving every day and I hope that they adapt to the city, the conditions, climate and everything,” Habas said.

Acknowledging that the ISL has undergone some changes in the format and rules since his first stint with the side, Habas said those factors do not change his motto as a coach, which is winning every match. “We want to win every time we take to the field. We will progress from match to match and not think about the title or the championship,” he said.

The magic word

When asked about how he would like to approach the season, the answer was about striking the right balance. “The magic word in football is balance. The idea is to score goals and not concede any. My principal goal is to build a competitive team, which will strike a balance in attack and defence,” Habas said.

Star forward Roy Krishna, who joined ATK after becoming the top scorer of the A-League earlier this year, said he was looking ahead to continue the form with the team that represents the place where his ancestors once belonged. “I am very grateful to be here playing for this big club and looking forward to a good season,” Krishna said.

Read | Roy Krishna: Coming to Kolkata, it feels at home

Congratulating the ISL for giving the Indian players the scope to grow professionally, Habas said the league has become quite competitive now. “We have very good Indian players. The Indian players with the ISL are more competitive because of the strong bonding with the foreign players. There is always good communication and good opportunity for Indian players,” he said. The coach was not in favour of having a reserve league for the development side players saying that it will be too expensive for the franchise.

‘Don’t need another league’

“For me, it (a league for reserve teams) is absolutely not necessary. We have enough youth level and professional second division (I-league) for this purpose. So you don’t need another league as the clubs then will have to pay for 45-50 players which is crazy,” Habas said.

Habas’ assistant coach Sanjoy Sen said the team will regain the confidence to aim for the title under Habas. “We are not looking back at the past records. We are looking forward to the upcoming season. Yes we won the trophy under him in the inaugural season. We cannot say we will be the champion again but definitely we should be looking for the title again,” Sen said.

When asked whether the players will face difficulty in adjusting to the Habas’ Spanish system after playing for two seasons in English style (under Teddy Sheringham, Ashley Westwood, Steve Coppell), Sen said professional players can adjust to all systems. “Professional players are accustomed to playing in different styles. It is a learning experience for the players also. All over the world, coaches are changing but players are constant. They are learning new styles and adapting to the strategies of different coaches,” Sen said.

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