Habas: The focus is on nurturing the Indian boys

"We need to build a competitive team right from the technical staff to the players. We need to build a club that is like a family and all the members should have the same objective," says Antonio Habas, who is set to take over the reins of FC Pune City in the Indian Super League this season.

Antonio Habas… a new season, a new team and a new mission.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

After spending two successful seasons at Atletico de Kolkata that included an Indian Super League title, Antonio Habas is set to take over the reins of FC Pune City, a move which he describes as a ‘professional call’. After the Pune franchise made the announcement, Sportstar caught up with the Spaniard for a brief chat.

Excerpts:

Question: In the first and second seasons, FC Pune City finished sixth (16 points) and seventh (15 points) respectively. What are the areas that Pune needs to work on? At one stage, the franchise was leading the points table…

Answer: I don’t want to analyse a team, coached by another coach, and its performances over the past two seasons. In my opinion, we need to build a competitive team right from the technical staff to the players. We need to build a club that is like a family and all the members should have the same objective.

You have retained four Indian players and signed five more. How important is the Indian core?

The Indian players form the core of a squad since we can only field five foreigners. So, it will be the Indian players who will be taking the team forward in the long run considering their experience and understanding of the local conditions. My focus has always been on nurturing the Indian boys because that is eventually the long-term goal.

Eugenson Lyngdoh was the AIFF Player of the Year (2015) and I-League Midfielder of the Year (2014-15), and he impressed in the ISL. How important will his influence be this season?

Eugenson is a very good player and he will be very important.

Has any player in the I-League caught your eye?

We have had our eyes on certain players in the I-League and are looking to bring them into the squad. But we can sign only 14 local players, so we will have to plan accordingly.

Plenty of youngsters have impressed in the I-league. Your thoughts?

I repeat, we can have only 14 domestic players in the squad, so we are still working on the combination.

FC Pune City’s foreign players have not really performed well. So would you be looking to strengthen that area?

Yes, we are looking at two-three foreign players. But it is tough because some of the players will be committed to their respective leagues in Europe. So, we are waiting until after May 15 — after they have finished their European club commitments — to talk to them.

What is the realistic target for Pune this season?

The immediate target is to consolidate the team and build a squad that can challenge for the title.

What plans for pre-season training?

I’ll take the team to Spain for the pre-season. The facilities there are nice. We will tentatively start training a couple months before the ISL starts.

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