Materazzi: 'We are going to defend the title'

Chennaiyin FC will be without its top goal-scorers of the last two seasons, Brazilian Elano Blumer and Colombian John Stiven Mendoza. But coach Marco Materazzi was confident the team was capable of defending its title.

Marco Materazzi said he was not unduly perturbed regarding the absence of Elano or Mendoza.   -  R. Ragu

Coach Marco Materazzi has expressed confidence in Chennayin FC’s ability to defend its Indian Super League title this season with the new team that has been announced.

Chennaiyin FC will be without its top goal-scorers of the last two seasons, Brazilian Elano Blumer and Colombian John Stiven Mendoza. But head coach Marco Materazzi was keen to emphasise on the talent he had at his disposal.

“We should be concerned about the players who are here and not those who helped us win the title last year. Mendoza has taken his own path to further his career which is shaping excellently if I may add. It would have been easy for me to just win the title and then leave. But I am here again. We are going to defend the title with or without Elano and Mendoza.”

When asked whether local boys Dhanpal Ganesh and N. Mohanraj will get game-time this season, Materazzi maintained that he did not care where his players came from or how old they were but if they were good, they will get chances. “Whoever deserves to play will play,” he said.

He made the exact same point after being asked if the five youngsters signed from the All India Football Federation Elite Academy would be ready to make an impact. “They are all ready to play and could have found a place in the team. But sadly, the rules do not allow us to field them.”

Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise, who played for Delhi Dynamos last season, will be Chennaiyin FC’s marquee player this season. He said, “I am a winner. I do not see myself as a marquee player but as a part of the team. I will try to be a role model for the youngsters so that they can learn from me.”

Despite winning the title last season, Chennaiyin FC did not top the fair-play table and there were questions asked about the club’s disciplinary record. Materazzi gave a fitting answer when he said, “The only thing I cannot guarantee to my players and anyone is that we are not going to win the discipline award. Last year we were the team which scored most number of goals and won the title. If you are looking for a coach who wants to win the discipline award, just tell me and I am going to leave,” he said.

With as many as 12 midfielders vying for spots in the starting XI, the competition for places is heating up. Enforcer Harmanjot Khabra admitted that but hoped that this would be bring out the best in all the players and help the team win matches.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Karanjit Singh, Pawan Kumar, Duwayne Kerr (Jamaica).

Defenders: Abhishek Das, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Dhanachandra Singh, Nallappan Mohanraj, Jerry Lalrinzuala (developmental player), Eli Sabia (Brazil), Eder Monteiro (Brazil), Bernard Mendy (France), John Arne Riise (Norway).

Midfielders: Raphael Augusto (Brazil), Hans Mulder (Netherlands), Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Dhanpal Ganesh, Zakeer Mundampara, Siam Hanghal, Baljit Sahni, Thoi Singh, Manuele Blasi (Italy).

Forwards: David Succi (Italy), Maurizio Peluso (Italy), Jayesh Rane, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Dudu