ISL 2019-20: Odisha FC - A new name, a new home, a new season

After playing in the national capital for five seasons, Delhi Dynamos has moved bases, changed names and now calls Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium its home.

Odisha FC coach Josep Gombau (he was also the DDFC coach) arrives at the Biju Patnaik International airport to visit the team’s home ground in Bhubaneswar on September 16, 2019.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

This year sees two ‘new’ teams enter the Indian Super League, of which Odisha FC is one. After playing in the national capital for five seasons, Delhi Dynamos has moved bases, changed names and now calls Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium its home.

While Pune City FC’s relocation to Hyderabad was forced on it by financial strains and the arrival of new investors, OFC came into being after the state government — which has been actively promoting sports — wooed its owners with the promise of infrastructure support.

After a fifth-place finish in the first Indian Super League, DDFC made it to the playoffs for two seasons back-to-back — finishing fourth and third. The last two campaigns, however, were abysmal.

Insipid performances and consecutive eighth-place finishes saw the attendances drop over time, with last season seeing an average of just over 7000 fans every home game — in a stadium that can hold 60,000.

The structure of the club, from the coaching staff to the players and beyond, has mostly remained the same despite the move. Joseph Gombau will continue to coach the side, with the team making a few interesting moves in the transfer market ahead of its debut campaign.

Midfielder Marcos Tebar, once with Delhi Dynamos, has been signed from the defunct Pune City team while winger Xisco Hernandez, who won the ISL last season with Bengaluru FC, is the other big acquisition.

The Spanish coach will be hoping for a change in fortunes as the pressure will be on him to deliver results. Despite being the manager with the lowest win percentage (22.22%) in the club’s history, the owners have stuck with him as his penchant for an attacking style and a strong relationship with his players went in his favour.

Martin Perez Guedes, signed from Racing Club II, will be the one to watch out for. The Argentinian attacking midfielder, who can play wide or as the second striker, is an ideal acquisition as Gombau likes versatile, technically sound players who can adjust to flexible tactics. With a style similar to Nicolas Velez, once of North East United FC, Perez will be hoping to make the kind of positive impact that his compatriot did — or better it.

The one nice thing about Bhubaneswar is that I feel like they're making an extra effort to make me feel welcome and they're doing whatever they can to grow the sport.

— Club director, Rohan Sharma

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