After a string of poor league runs, NorthEast United FC managed to re-connect with its supporters in the region last season with improved performances on the field. A first-ever playoff finish in the Indian Super League (ISL) saw more attendance in the stands. However, the management had to go back to the drawing board yet again to replace the men — crucial to NorthEast’s resurgence — who went off to other clubs.
Coach Eelco Schattorie was lured away by Kerala Blasters and he took striker Bartholomew Ogbeche — who top-scored for NEUFC — with him. Indian central midfielder Rowllin Borges too preferred to switch to Mumbai City FC in the middle of the Super Cup.
Croatian Robert Jarni is now the head coach and Ghanaian legend Asamoh Gyan has replaced Ogbeche. Jarni is NorthEast’s sixth manager in as many seasons.
Jarni has had mixed coaching spells in the top-flight divisions of Croatia, Bosnia and Hungary and most recently spent two years as the head coach of the Croatian men’s U-19 national team.
NorthEast retains some exciting domestic talent, most notably Lalthathanga Khwalhring, also known as Puitea, who bloomed as a skilful attacking midfielder under Schattorie. Jarni has also many inexperienced domestic players in his side and will look to his overseas players to lead the side.
“It doesn’t matter where I am playing, I just want to play football and bring exposure to the place I go. After I went to the UAE and China other players started to follow in my footsteps and the league got exposure. I hope to do the same here and give it my all in the ground,” says Asamoah Gyan, who might hold the key to NEUFC’s season.
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