Emiliano Alfaro sets sights on playoff berth with Pune FC

Although the club has never reached the semifinals of Indian Super League, finishing 6th, 7th and 6th in the last three seasons, Alfaro believes Pune City has what it takes to make it to the playoffs this year.

Alfaro hopes his North East experience would help him add more goals in ISL to make this year special for everybody at Pune City FC.   -  RITU RAJ KONWAR

Pune City FC's new signing Emiliano Alfaro had his first taste of the Indian Super League (ISL) when he walked out for North East United in the opening game of the 2016 season. This left the him wanting for more. After topping the scoring charts last season, – five goals in 13 appearances – Alfaro is hoping to propel the Maharashtra based club into its first ever ISL playoffs.

In a telephone interview with Sportstar, Alfaro claims that he was impressed with the culture and the people of India in his maiden sojourn and he is relishing the prospect of experiencing fresh challenges in a new city.

When deciding to come back, Pune City's new head coach Antonio Lopez Habas lured the 29-year-old forward into making the switch. "First of all the coach called me and said he wanted me. That’s very important for the confidence of the player," said Alfaro.

Although the club has never reached the semifinals in its three seasons finishing 6th, 7th and 6th in the eight-team competition, Alfaro believes Pune City has what it takes to make it to the playoffs this year. 

"I cannot guarantee that we will (reach the playoffs) but I can guarantee to give our best to reach (that goal). To think about only the semifinals (playoffs) is too fast. We have to start building the team, with pre-season and fight from the beginning," said the former Napoli striker.

The ISL has expanded into a ten team league for the forthcoming season with Bengaluru FC and a Jamshedpur based team added to the fold. Traveling in India can be a logistical nightmare for these ISL footballers with long flights and bus journeys from one end of the country to another.

But Alfaro is not too bothered about the travel exertions in store. "For any kind of work we have to travel. Sometimes it is a problem because of traffic in India. But that is part of the ISL and you cannot be frustrated with the situation. This year we have more time in the league to travel and relax in the place that you play," said Alfaro.

The ISL has proposed weekend affairs over a five-month period to do away with the schedule of matches being played every three days. This means Alfaro, who played for UAE side Al-Fujairah during the off-season, will not be able to put his name in the ring for the winter transfer window.

"Maybe for other players they might feel, "I lose a window of opportunity". But it wasn't too difficult for me. For me if you agree to a contract then you agree to the conditions of the duration of the league," he said.

With the domestic players draft set for July 23, teams are on the offensive to fill their two domestic player slots and an uncapped U-21 player slot. Alfaro hopes the management will make the right choices during the draft which can help the side achieve its goal. “It is the responsibility of the coach and the team (management) to make the side competitive and I trust them to do that,” he said.

There were several young Indian talents who caught the eyes of the one-time Uruguayan international in his only season at North East. “Rowlin Borges, the number 5 for North East, was impressive. And of course Subrata Paul, he is not young but was one of the important players for NEU."

"Holicharan (Narzary) was a very good player and he can play wherever he wants. Also Seityasen (Singh). I was impressed with the level of Indian players,” added the 29-year-old footballer.

Alfaro hopes his North East experience would help him add more goals in ISL to make this year special for everybody at Pune City FC.

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