ISL roundup: Transfers and sackings galore

The Indian Super League finished its first half of the season, welcomed new players and saw several head coaches being shown the door. As the league entered 2022, here are the top talking points.

Change at the helm: Juan Ferrando, new head coach of ATK Mohun Bagan has a word with his players during the ISL.   -  Focus Sports/ ISL

Ferrando joins ATK Mohun Bagan, with Pereira replacing him at FC Goa

Juan Ferrando took charge of ATK Mohun Bagan after its former head coach Antonio Habas quit the club and the Spaniard triggered his release clause at FC Goa. The club, which had won just twice in the first six games under Habas, won its first two games under Ferrando, including a win against his former side FC Goa.

Goa got its panacea in the dugout in the form of former footballer Derrick Pereira, who steered the side to winning ways after a stuttering start.

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SC East Bengal finds hope in Rennedy Singh

Both the Kolkata-based sides saw a change in head-coaches as Manuel Manolo Diaz parted ways with SC East Bengal as the side remained at the bottom of the table.

Former East Bengal Coach Mario Rivera, who guided the side to second place in I-League two seasons back was named his replacement and assistant coach Rennedy Singh took charge of the side till Rivera completed his mandatory quarantine.

The former Indian football captain, Singh’s agility along the sidelines during the matches was lauded across social media platforms as the side drew two of the three matches under him, including a draw against defending champion Mumbai City FC.

With injuries and suspensions of foreigners, Singh started an all-Indian side for the first time in the league’s history in his last match, against Jamshedpur FC.

ISL continues to see Indian forwards rise

The Indian Super League 2021-22 season has seen some amazing Indian goal scorers — be it Liston Colaco’s stunner from distance, or Sahal Samad’s sublime finishes.

After 55 matches, the number of goals and assists by Indians this season (51 goals, 53 assists) has almost doubled as compared to that in the inaugural season (22 goals, 30 assists).

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COVID-19 disrupts ISL

Several ISL clubs suffered coronavirus outbreaks with three matches initially postponed.

The COVID-19 outbreak opened another pandora’s box of worries with several players coming out to question why only matches involving ATKMB were postponed while another game, which had a team with nine players out with COVID, was allowed to go on.

The other issue stressed by the players was the difficulty of continuing to play in a biosecure bubble in spite of the virus outbreak.

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“More time in a bubble? I think it’s not healthy for the mind, nor is it healthy not to train for days and go play the game directly!” ATKMB defender Tiri tweeted.

Standing tall: Prabhsukhan Singh Gill goalkeeper of Kerala Blasters FC saves a free kick from Eduardo Garcia Martin of Hyderabad FC during the ISL.   -  Focus Sports/ ISL

 

Kerala Blasters find a new wall in Gill

Kerala Blasters had to suffer injury woes early on in the season with its first-choice keeper ruled out with an injury. Since then, its backup keeper Prabhsukhan Gill took charge and has been a revelation this season, leading the race for the Golden Glove with four clean sheets in four matches.

He has been instrumental in not just maintaining clean sheets, but also helping Kerala Blasters go on top of the ISL table for the first time in its history

Chaos in Odisha FC

In a bizarre turn of events, Vinit Rai, one of the captains of the club, left the club on loan to Mumbai City FC, the first captain to switch ships this season. Jerry Mawihmingthanga was named the new captain.

A few days later, Odisha FC became the fourth club to undergo a change in its head coach this season, after SC East Bengal, ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa.

Kiko Ramirez, who had steered the side to an optimistic beginning was sacked after the team lost to Kerala Blasters, its third loss in three matches as the team remained ninth on the league table.

Fellow Spaniard and assistant coach Kino Garcia took over as interim coach of the side.

Making waves: Ishan Pandita scored two back-to-back late goals against NorthEast United FC and SC East Bengal as JFC’s head coach Owen Coyle eulogised the forward saying India has a great No. 9 in the making in him.   -  Focus Sports / ISL

 

India has a great No. 9 in the making in Ishan Pandita

Jamshedpur FC found its own version of super-sub in Ishan Pandita, who earned five crucial points for the team, which became the difference for the team being inside or outside the top-four.

Pandita scored two back-to-back late goals against NorthEast United FC and SC East Bengal as JFC’s head coach Owen Coyle eulogised the forward saying India has a great No. 9 in the making.

Arindam quits SC East Bengal captaincy

SC East Bengal had a tumultuous season, with its captain and former Golden Glove winner Arindam Bhattacharja injured in the Kolkata derby.

The team has also struggled with injuries and suspensions and is at the bottom of the table, the only side without a single win this season so far.

The goalkeeper and captain took to Twitter to announce his decision to step down as the captain of the Red-and-Gold brigade. “At this moment due to circumstances around me, I am stepping down as the captain of SC East Bengal,” he said.

A tale of homecomings

The winter transfer window saw multiple homecomings from Sandesh Jhinghan to Nerijus Valskis and Marcelinho, but in different aspects.

Sandesh Jhinghan, the Indian defender, who had joined HNK Sibenik from ISL in August last year, re-joined ATK Mohun Bagan in January, without making a single appearance for the Croat side.

Nerijus Valskis, who had won the Golden Boot with Chennaiyin FC in his debut season in the ISL returned to the Marina Machans on a free transfer from Jamshedpur FC.

JFC signed Daniel Chima Chukwu from SC East Bengal as his replacement a week later, with Chima’s former club signing Brazilian striker Marcelo Ribeiro on loan from Gil Vicente FC for the rest of the season. Another Golden boot winner, Marcelo Leite Pereira, better known as Marcelinho, returned to ISL on a loan spell after stints in Greece and Brazil.

The Brazilian has been involved in the league since 2016 and won the Golden Boot in his debut season with Delhi Dynamos — the team now known as Odisha FC.

In the January window, he moved to NorthEast United FC from I-League side Rajasthan United, as Khalid Jamil’s side explored attacking options.

The ‘Perosevic’ conundrum

SC East Bengal was embroiled in a string of controversies with its forward Antonio Perosevic involved in one of them.

The Croatian was charged with “violent conduct” for his behaviour in SCEB’s match against NorthEast United and was handed a five-match ban along with a fine of ₹1 lakh.

While he appealed against the ruling, the All India Football Federation dismissed it, upholding the ban and ordering him to pay a further ₹60,000 “towards the cost and expenses of the appeal”.