Manolo Marquez, head coach of the victorious Hyderabad FC which won the Indian Super League (ISL) title last Sunday in Goa, said the team had many key players in every line and with a lot of experience around which helped the young talent in the team.
In his first media interaction after the title win, Marquez said the reason for success was they spent a lot of time with the players, coming to know about many aspects of not just their game but also their lifestyle, the clubs or academies they played which helped them a lot in winning the trophy.
“We would achieve this because of the team's hard work, support from the staff and management, and discipline amongst players,” he said.
“Even after a bad game, we spent a lot of time together,” Marquez said.
“Definitely, there can’t be greater satisfaction than winning the ISL. Well, when I signed up with the club, I was just hoping most of the decisions would come good. We were spot on in everything this season that is why we emerged champions,” he said.
“We signed experienced players with a lot of quality. The HFC is a fantastic group with all the players, staff and management working in tandem. Now, Hyderabad is the team to beat and that is a big achievement,” he said.
“Sometimes you need success like this to get the next step in a huge project like promoting football in the State,” Marquez said.
“Now it is time to celebrate, stay disconnected from the game for some days because it was hard to be six months 24 x7 thinking about the League, far away from our families. Now, it is not the time to speak about our next season. It is for the Club to say more on this,” he said.
Goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani said he was very confident, calm and composed during the penalties and it was more of a mental game when he walked upto the rival players who were to take the spot kicks and tell them – shoot the ball in and not out. “That way I tried to put some pressure on them,” he said.
“Definitely, Kerala players were under pressure. It is difficult for the players who take the penalties. They keep thinking what will happen, crowds shouting will only add to the pressure,” he said.
“Conceding the first goal to Kerala Blasters in the final was an error but a brilliant goal by our teammate gave us back the confidence. I made three saves and felt great. It is very satisfying to have 61 saves in the ISL season,” he said. “The coaches just told me – you know what to do and just stay cool,” he added.
Captain Joao Victor said there was no pressure on him as the leader as he had an amazing group and there were many who were doing the job so it was easier for him.
“A lot of young players, but not as young like last season. Everyone as helping out each other, it is a fantastic group and the coach gave a lot of confidence to them at half-time in the final and there was an improved performance,” he said.
Bartholomew Ogbeche, who won the ISL Golden Boot for his 18 goals and also became the ISL’s all-time top goalscorer, said it was possible because of the teammates and coaches efforts. “They put me on the pedestal,” he said.
“In the final, it was not about one individual - he or anyone else scoring or not. It has to be a team effort,” he said. “Regardless who scored, all we wanted was that trophy and delighted to have it,” he added.
On his debut season with HFC, Obgeche said he didn’t have any iota of doubt about the club after he watched the way the team played last season and missed the knock-out berth so narrowly.
“I appreciate their confidence, we have a lot of freedom on the field in HFC, mix everything very easily, and raise the confidence levels of the youngsters, Hyderabad style suited my style and it was much easier to adapt to it,” Obgeche said.
“We just told the youngsters not to think of the final result. Live your moment, or the 90 minute game. Don’t think of the consequences, if you lose or win, think of doing everything you can do. Even if you don't, you can do what you couldn’t” he said.
“I would love to be with HFC but it is not in my hands. Now, thinking of enjoying the moments. It is for the management to decide,” Obgeche said.
Nikhil Poojary, who was with HFC since its first season, Indian players did well because they were made to look far more comfortable and the coaches were very receptive.
“I am really happy with my decision to extend my contract with the HFC and looking for a long partnership,” he said.