FC Pune City will be in quest of a new chief coach for the upcoming season of the Indian Super League, in the wake of Antonio Habas’ decision to leave . The Spaniard, the most successful in ISL, was the third coach to be in charge (after Franco Colomba and David Plattt) at FCPC and leaves at a stage when the team management and coaching staff is planning for pre-season preparation. Gaurav Modwel, CEO of the ISL franchise, answers questions about the development. Edited excerpts:
Question: Can you explain the circumstances behind his decision to leave before contract ended?
Answer: When we signed a two-year contract in January 2016, the ISL was supposed to get over by December 2017 and so the contract with Habas was to get over then. He had committed something post-December, so if I had to continue with the contract (ISL in April 2018), I would have to pay him the entire sum of contract till December 2018 or he would miss out on coaching opportunity elsewhere. Now three parties were involved (FCPC, coach and new club). We were hoping to find a solution, but it was difficult to do so.
Were both the club and coach on the same page regarding player signings?
I heard that people believe there were issues within. There were disagreements within the technical team about one or two players out of 14, not between team management and chief coach. The disagreements were sorted out, since the technical team will have opinions and counter-opinions. Habas was with me right through the draft. The reason for him leaving was not due to disagreements over players choices, but because we could not get his contract extended.
Habas is the third coach for the club. Any reason for changing personnel so often?
Franco Colomba was a last-minute signing in the first season and we started on the run. He had a lot of experience in Italy. After the season ended, we met different coaches and found in Platt an extremely rational mind and extremely professional. Under him, the team started well before things went bad. For personal reasons and difficulty to be here for longer periods, Platt went away. We went for Habas after seeing him do well for two seasons in a row. He wanted to leave Atletico de Kolkata at that point. Habas’ success in India made us go for him.
Going by Habas’ ISL track record at ATK, do you feel Pune City’s season last year was an under-achievement?
Pune City had the best season in 2016, though we ended in the worst position (seventh) as far as the table standings are concerned. Till the ninth game, we were the joint leaders. There are many reasons, I feel we were unlucky due to injuries to key players (Eigur Johansson and Andre Bikel) just before last season started. Both were leaders for us on the pitch, in attack and defence. New guys came in with no pre-season. Other teams played better than us.
What’s your experience with Habas? He is considered a difficult person to work with.
No issues with Antonio (Habas) really. He is a strong character and that is also what makes him a leader on the field.
The new coach will have to work with players signed by the club prior to Habas’ exit. Will that make any difference to pre-season planning?
The coaches in ISL are professionals. Our team is new, with only Vishal Kaith and Jonathan Luca the only players from last season. New coaches have taken charge of teams in ISL before, and they they meet players for the first time during the pre-season training camp. This time we also go through this. I do not foresee any problem. A decision on the new coach will be taken in the next 10 days.
Will the next chief coach be someone with previous ISL experience?
I don’t know how many of them are available, they would have signed up with teams elsewhere. If they are not coaching in ISL, there must be a reason. Either way, we will have a coach soon and preparations can begin by October.
A coach from Spain chose to walk away from ISL (Habas) in a season when Spanish professional players are joining in larger numbers?
The ISL is gaining prominence everywhere in the world, not just in Spain. Leagues in Spain and Portugal get lots of players from South America. Salary levels are higher in a league like Italy (Serie A) and it is easier for a Secunda B to come, where salaries are comparable to the ISL. It becomes easier for us to get coaches and players from those regions. Signing a coach has nothing to do with nationality. For all you know we might have another Spaniard in charge.
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