Juan Ferrando showed all the signs of a good coach in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 final, where his team, ATK Mohun Bagan, made history by winning its first ISL title after beating Bengaluru FC 4-3 on penalties.
When former ATKMB player Roy Krishna scored, to make it 2-1 in BFC’s favour in the 78th minute, Ferrando would be forgiven for panicking and making rushed changes. Instead, he stuck to his game plan and showed initiative by bringing on Federico Gallego and Kiyan Nassiri.
Moments after coming on, Nassiri threatened the Bengaluru defence as he tried to make a run inside its penalty area. Pablo Perez tried to stop him and conceded a penalty, which Petratos scored to make it 2-2.
“After the score became 1-1, we had some difficult moments, but the players fought until the last minute and tried to win the match even in extra-time. This cup is for the players,” Ferrando said after winning his maiden ISL title.
ATKMB captain Pritam Kotal became the first player to lead the club to ISL glory. Playing in the heart of the Mariners’ defence, Kotal covered multiple positions in defence throughout the match.
“It feels nice to win the title after so much hard work. Even when we were 2-1 down, I saw the team believe in themselves. It is my first trophy as captain, but congrats to everyone,” said a smiling Kotal after the match.
The half-time team talk
ATKMB were moments away from carrying a 1-0 lead at half-time before Subhasish Bose conceded a penalty in the dying minutes after a mistimed challenge on Krishna. Sunil Chhetri scored from the spot to make it 1-1, spoiling all the momentum the Mariners had built in the first 45 minutes.
“We have a set gameplan, and these situations are part of the game. I know what I want from my team. You have to remember we played a team with a lot of experience, with players like Gurpreet [Singh Sandhu], [Sunil] Chhetri and Rohit [Kumar]. But the players trusted my process, and I spoke about controlling things in the match. I am happy with the character of my team,” said Ferrando, on his interaction with the players at the break.
On facing criticism
Even though he wasn’t direct about it, the satisfaction on Ferrando’s face was evident when asked about answering his critics.
“People do not know what these players go through. They don’t know what happens in training. Some have fathers in the hospital, and some have lost their fathers and grandfathers. These players are human, and sometimes they get tired. I always tell them not to pay attention to these things. Some people watch television and then write stupid things. So I never lose energy reading comments on social media or other places,” Ferrando said.
“The people, who are criticising me, the next moment they are criticising some other things, then they are criticising politics. So I do not bother with it. This win is about my players and not about answering anyone,” Ferrando added.
Eyes on Super Cup
The ISL title is Ferrando’s second honour in Indian football after the Durand Cup win with FC Goa. While he admits that his ideal way of celebrating is getting more than five hours of sleep once he returns to Kolkata, there is no question of resting on his laurels.
“Very happy that the team won, but they all know (points to Pritam Kotal) tomorrow, or by Monday, we are back at the training ground, preparing for the Super Cup. It is important to win the Super Cup because winning is in the tradition of this club. We have time to talk and improve some details. It is what we are here for,” Ferrando said.