With the I-League season grinding to a halt due to the coronavirus outbreak, Chennai City FC’s coach Akbar Nawas found the time to sit down and review the season gone by and his team's performance this time around.
“It was not a perfect season for us in terms of results, but a good learning curve. The experience we gained was invaluable and will help us move forward with conviction," said the 44-year-old.
Despite being plagued by bad results and injury concerns through the season before the coronavirus led to an indefinite suspension of the league, Nawas credited his side for putting together fighting performances.
"The start wasn’t good, but we did better towards the later stages. I am proud of the team this season than the last (when it won the title). Despite injuries to key players, we came out fighting and stronger than ever before. It is now a more balanced team.”
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During the course of the season, Nawas also slotted quite a few Indian players in new positions. “They [Indians] were a gem to watch in the last few games. Players like Jockson, Charles, Sriram (the three central midfielders), Vijay (striker) and Mashoor (centre-back) formed the spine of the team. I don't any think any other side has six locals in their spine," revealing that these positions were usually reserved for foreigners.
The coach also said that he saw the possibilities of some of these boys landing places in the National team. “They will be the most sought after in the market when they play the next season.”
Nawas sees how his side functions as a stepping stone between grassroots structures and the higher ISL division. However, the focus is on recruitment and a better performance come next season.
“We are working closely with the management in retaining and recruiting players. The Chennai league, the year before, worked wonders as I could select players in competition mode. Yes, the players would move to bigger clubs and a better income stream, but it’s a good opportunity for us to analyse and review how we can do better next season.”
Akbar felt that the mistakes the players made in the last two seasons will be an eye-opener and help them emerge stronger the next time. "Though we won last season, we did commit mistakes. Luckily, we weren't punished for them."
With just three games to go this season, Mohun Bagan has already sealed the championship. “We will analyse both seasons on and off the pitch, and see how we can click with the style of football people associate us with," said Akbar.
“This is just the start of great things for this club which has big ambitions. You will see that in the coming season."
COVID-19 has pushed all sportspersons and coaches indoors, including Nawas and his boys. “It [coronavirus] has affected every soul. It's a tough situation for all, but nothing is more important than human lives. Of course, we miss the training, but it’s better to stay safe,” he said.
Nawas said the CCFC management took the wise decision of sending the local players back to their families in the middle of March. “They have been home since
then and I am in touch with them regularly to discuss football and much more.”
But, life has become really hard for Naws after the lockdown. “It’s tough for me at a personal level as I am yet to join my family. The embassy in Chennai is trying its best to help me and so is my club. I hope the flight service resumes on April 14 so that people like me can join our families."