ISL: Rafi, Francisco extend Chennaiyin stay

The experienced Indian duo with more than 30 India caps between them will continue at the Marina Arena in the coming season, looking to defend the ISL title.

Chennaiyin FC's Mohammed Rafi celebrates a goal.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Two of the vital cogs in Chennaiyin FC’s 2017-18 title-winning wheel – Francisco Fernandes and Mohammed Rafi have renewed their contracts by one year each, the club announced on Wednesday.

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The 32-year old Francisco was picked by Chennaiyin in last season’s player draft despite undergoing an ankle surgery. The nippy winger from South Goa repaid the faith by proving to be versatile in various positions he was deployed in. He made 17 appearances and scored one goal against Bengaluru FC.

“I can’t thank the coaching staff and club management enough for trusting in me. It is an incredible feeling as a player to have that kind of backing. I hope I was able to show my gratitude with my performances last season. I’m glad I was part of our incredible title success,” said Fernandes.

Rafi is another experienced figure in the Chennaiyin ranks as he contributed vastly to Chennaiyin’s second ISL triumph. Both of his two goals in the campaign came from headers after he had come off the bench. His second, an 89th minute equaliser against Jamshedpur FC, helped the side avoid defeat and secure a vital point in the race to the playoffs.

Coach John Gregory stressed on the importance of retaining the two experienced heads in Francisco and Rafi. “Keeping the core of our side intact from last season is of paramount importance. And Frankie (Fernandes) and Rafi are integral members of that core. They’re almost unsung heroes of the side, top-class professionals who did a brilliant job for their team when called upon,” said the Englishman.