ISL can be among the top leagues in the world: Materazzi

The Chennaiyin FC coach said he was surprised about India’s low ranking – 155th in the world – despite it being a nation of 1.3 billion people.

Chennaiyin FC head coach Marco Materazzi said that the Indian Super League (ISL) can be among the best leagues in the world.

Interacting with the media on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium during the unveiling of the Chennaiyin FC squad for 2015, the team’s coach said he was surprised about India’s low ranking – 155th in the world – despite it being a nation of 1.3 billion people.

“Firstly, the talent must be nurtured in the schools and the football academies. They must be taught well,” Materazzi said. Naming a few young Indians from the Chennaiyin FC squad, the 42-year-old defender said that they are second to none.

Materazzi was also responsible for persuading international stars like Fikru Teferra and Manuele Blasi to join the Chennai outfit.

Fikru, who was the highest goal-scorer for the defending champion, Atletico de Kolkata, last year, will bolster Chennaiyin FC’s chances of winning the title this year.

“We were a really strong team last year. And since we had more time to prepare, I am sure we will be better this year,” he said of Chennaiyin FC’s chances in the tournament. The Chennai club scored the most number of goals last season and the coach promised to carry on with its attacking mindset.

The Chennayin FC team returned to Chennai on Tuesday after completing a month-long pre-season camp in Perugia (Italy). Materazzi said that the focus of the camp was to help the players remain injury-free throughout the season.

The club’s marquee player Elano Blumer was injured last year in the final stages of the league and it affected their chances of making it to the final. This year, midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh, who was injured during the World Cup qualifiers, is uncertain to play in the opening game.

“It is pretty tough to guarantee that (to remain injury-free) but we will try our best,” Materazzi said.

About his coaching career, Materazzi said that he looks up to his former Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho.

“Mourinho is one of the best coaches and I have learnt a lot under him. The biggest challenge for me as a coach is to keep the team together. I hope I am able to do that,” he added.

Materazzi praised the “improved conditions” at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the home ground of Chennaiyin FC.

“The turf is simply outstanding. There are a lot of improvements this year and I hope we have this kind of turf wherever we go,” added the former Italian defender.