Habas: Chose FC Pune City as I wanted a new project

The Spaniard’s defensive mindset is different from the free-flowing, attacking play and spectacular goals demonstrated by leading La Liga clubs FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, and the national squad back home.

The ex-Bolivia national coach explains: “There are two important things in football: discipline in the squad off the pitch and tactical discipline on the pitch. If your players don’t have discipline and control off the pitch, they can’t have discipline on it."   -  Vivek Bendre

Spanish coach Antonio Habas, having tasted success with Atletico de Kolkata in season one of the Indian Super League, is clear about how Indian football can benefit from the systems set up due to the ISL. “In terms of India, it is very important to have an important competition, be it I-League or ISL, but at the same time you have to build up academies and facilities,” he said, pointing out continuity as the base behind football success, in a chat after taking charge at FC Pune City on a two-year deal.

The Spaniard’s defensive mindset is different from the free-flowing, attacking play and spectacular goals demonstrated by leading La Liga clubs, FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, and the national squad back home. “I think over the last 20 years, Spain has played the best football in the world, be it Real Madrid, Barcelona or the national team. The reason is, in Spain we’re working with academies with good organisation, good facilities and good coaches.”

He managed Valencia and Sporting Gijon back home. “This is the secret and the next generation of Spanish footballers is also similar to the current crop of players. The project continues.”

Referring to the approach by teams under him (ATK last two ISL seasons, FCPC next), Habas is clear. “The focus on tactical discipline will continue. The proposal is intelligent football. I cannot promise to the players or fans that we will play like FC Barcelona.”

The ex-Bolivia national coach explains: “There are two important things in football: discipline in the squad off the pitch and tactical discipline on the pitch. If your players don’t have discipline and control off the pitch, they can’t have discipline on it. This is the idea. I had to talk to the ATK players immediately about this after taking charge. When a coach has an idea, he has to translate it to the group. I had to choose the actors, the best player, intelligent players.”

Arata joins Habas

India international Izumi Arata also moves from Kolkata to Pune to link up with the head coach, who will again bank on the attacking midfielder to implement his plan of action to a new group of players. “I chose Arata because he was one of the best players last season in ATK, in terms of ability and commitment,” said Habas. Augustine Fernandes is the second Kolkata player to join the Pune franchise. The pre-season will be held in Spain.

Habas lists the reasons: “Fundamentally, the reason behind going to Spain is the climate. Second, you have to create cohesion in the group because we have many different nationalities in the team. This is most important. After that, the facilities there are perfect, be it the pitch or the food. It’s very professional. We’re trying to hold a pre-season camp in August, maybe a 25-30 day camp near Madrid.”

Habas is on record that the ISL is a very short tournament. “Yes, it is a very intensive tournament. Even if you lose the first game, there is the possibility that you can make it to the knockouts. Look at Chennaiyin last season, they were last in the standings at one point and went on to win.” ISL 2016 will be his third coaching stint, the first away from ATK. “I feel that the project in Kolkata is finished for me. I took a professional call.”

The hard-nosed Spaniard is happy to have taken a new challenge. “I needed competitive pleasure, I needed a project. And this is the project. That’s why I chose FC Pune City. The offer was for a fantastic project. They have a big vision, determination, special commitment and a very good possibility to build a good thing. I’ve come to Pune to consolidate their position in the competition. I’m working for that.”

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