Chennaiyin FC hasn’t missed a marquee player, says Abhishek Bachchan

The Chennaiyin FC co-owner talks about the new Indian Super League season, marquee players, the club’s youth teams, and more, in a chat with Sportstar.

Abhishek Bachchan hasn’t seen anyone from Chennai booing celebrities during matches.   -  PTI

Chennaiyin FC, after its defeat of Bengaluru FC on Sunday, has established itself as a prime contender to make it to the play-offs in the fourth season of the Indian Super League. On Friday, it takes on Kerala Blasters at the Marina Arena with an eye on the top spot in the league table. Abhishek Bachchan, co-owner of the side, will be in the stands to cheer on his side in what is expected to be a high octane clash.

Sportstar caught up with the actor to talk about his team’s start to the new Indian Super League season, marquee players, the club’s youth teams and more.

Q. What are your thoughts on the new season so far?

A. I think it has been a solid start. Just two losses – and a close one at that. In the first match, from going down 3-0 to FC Goa and to fight-back to 3-2 shows immense character. We have looked solid going forward and in defence.

Is this the start you expected when the new coach John Gregory came on board?

Absolutely. There was a lot of deliberation to choose the right manager and we choose John considering various factors. We always expected this kind of football from him. And that kind of fell in line with the kind of football we wanted to play at the Marina Arena and things are going to plan.

John (Gregory) was specific of the team not chasing after a marquee player as opposed to previous seasons. How did it sit with the board?

In season one, we chose Elano who was a relatively unknown name compared to the other marquee players. He ended that season with the golden boot and he captained the side to the title in the next season. You have to take players that are going to deliver your kind of football, believe in that style and deliver in front of the crowd. If you have followed this season you would realise we have not missed a marquee player.

Preview: Chennaiyin FC hosts Kerala with eye on top spot

Can the league sustain the interest among fans without the marquee names?

I do not believe that fans need a big name to follow a club. They follow a team. Yes, marquee players do help but if your team is doing well, winning the league and the cups, they are going to follow your team.

What can you tell us about Chennaiyin’s youth team structure?

We have a U-13, U-15 and U-18 side. All three teams are playing exceptionally well in local leagues and tournaments. We hope they continue the rate of development and I don’t think the day will be far away when those kids will break into the senior squads. Our manager John Gregory keeps a close eye on them.

Statistically, I might be wrong, but I think we are the only ISL club which has given debuts to two youngest players in the same season. Last season, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Anirudh Thapa, both 18, made their debuts and Baoringdao Bodo made his debut this season. Also, the top three youngest players in ISL all come from our club.

What is your take on fans booing celebrities during ISL matches?

I cannot comment on other club’s fans. As long as it is left on the pitch I am ok with it. I have not seen anyone from Chennai indulging such behaviour. My friend John Abraham was surprised when he wasn't jeered during a lap of honour alongside me in the first season. We have great followers here and now we have great travelling supporters as well.

What are your expectations from this season after the good start from your side?

Don’t jinx it. (Laughs)

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