Looking for a change in fortunes

NorthEast United FC players working hard ahead of ISL Season II.-NEUFC

The young and charismatic Venezuelan Cesar Farias has come on board as the manager, replacing New Zealand’s Ricki Herbert. Farias, who took the Venezuelan national team to new heights during his stint between 2007 and 2013, promises more attractive “happy football”. By Amitabha Das Sharma.

NorthEast United, much to the dismay of their cine-star owner John Abraham, had a disappointing first season, finishing at the bottom of the League table.

The poor showing of the team was in stark contrast to the intensity and passion generated by the fans of the franchisee — 200,296 footfalls were recorded at Guwahati’s Nehru Stadium for the NorthEast’s seven home games. At the onset of the inaugural edition, the team looked balanced with Spanish World Cup star Joan Capdevila leading the charge. While, the defence, marshalled by Capdevila, looked sharp, NorthEast were terribly short of firepower upfront. Overall, the players failed to strike a cohesive chemistry on field.

The management, however, seem to have learnt valuable lessons from the misadventure and have redrafted the cast, replacing both the marquee player and manager. The young and charismatic Venezuelan Cesar Farias has come on board as the manager, replacing New Zealand’s Ricki Herbert. Farias, who took the Venezuelan national team to new heights during his stint between 2007 and 2013, promises more attractive “happy football”.

The side has a new marquee player in Simao Sabrosa — the Portuguese World Cupper — who will be leading the team’s attacking charge. Striking, indeed, was an area of concern, as the team only scored 11 goals in 14 games in the inaugural season. Sabrosa, a veteran, with experience of playing for top European clubs like Benfica, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, can be a big inspiration to the team.

The other attacking options are Senegalese striker Diomansy Kasmara, Boubacar Sanogo of Ivory Coast, Argentine Nicolas Velez and India’s own Holicharan Narzary. The franchise has retained the services of Portuguese defender Miguel Garcia and Zambian midfielder Kondwani Mtonga. The defence will have Frenchman Cedric Hengbart partnering Garcia while Portuguese Silas joins Sabrosa and Mtonga to further strengthen the midriff.

The team management has retained its faith on the north eastern players in domestic recruitment. The arrival of the young Seityasen Singh, Regan Singh and the seasoned Marlangki Suting from Royal Wahingdoh, which finished a creditable third in the I-League, will surely add depth to the squad. Other additions are defender Zohmingliana Ralte (Pune FC), goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte, Siam Hanghal (both Bengaluru FC) and Sanju Pradhan. The club has also retained five Indians — Rehenesh T. P., Aiborlang Khongjee, Robin Gurung, Boithang Haokip and Alen Deroy.

The pre-season was tough and gruelling. We were put through an intense training schedule and all the players benefitted from it. The ISL is a big test of stamina and fitness because the games come thick and fast and you need to be able to stand up to it.

Looking at the benefits of our over three-week long pre-season training in Durban, South Africa, the first thing that comes to my mind are the facilities provided by AmaZulu FC. We worked on our fitness a lot. There were a lot of gym sessions that focussed on stamina building and core-strengthening. The games we played were against good teams of the South African Premier Soccer League, which gave us stiff competition. We also gelled well as a unit.

We did a lot of work with the ball in all the training exercises and the coach (Cesar Farias) focused on every individual’s strengths. He was constantly making detailed observations and communicating to us where we need to improve and how to go about it. To me the unique aspect of the whole exercise was the intensity and the focus on working together as a team.

AS TOLD TO AMITABHA DAS SHARMA * * * SIMAO EXCITED ABOUT INDIAN ADVENTURE

AP

Simao Sabrosa (above), for long, has been a key component in the Portuguese national squad, sharing the dressing room with the likes of Luis Figo, Ruis Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo. Simao, the marquee player for NEUFC, is eager to face the rigours of the ISL and help his team put up a better display this season.

“I believe that we have a much more balanced squad this year. Our aim is to try and make it to the play-offs. After that, we will give it our all to become champions,” Simao, who replaces Spaniard Joan Capdevila, as the marquee player of the side, was very specific about the target. “On my part, I will try to create opportunities for the strikers and chip in with some goals myself. It is a big challenge, but if we pool together our resources, we can do well.”

Speaking about his Indian team-mates, he added: “I think, the Indian boys in the team are very talented and have the potential to do very well. Our supporter-base is also very passionate. I have experienced that ever since I have landed in India. I hope our fans will turn out in large numbers like last year and inspire us to perform well in the tournament.”

AMITABHA DAS SHARMA * * * SEITYASEN'S TAKEAWAYS FROM THE DURBAN TRIP

Seityasen Singh (left) during a training session in Durban.-NEUFC

The pre-season was tough and gruelling. We were put through an intense training schedule and all the players benefitted from it. The ISL is a big test of stamina and fitness because the games come thick and fast and you need to be able to stand up to it.

Looking at the benefits of our over three-week long pre-season training in Durban, South Africa, the first thing that comes to my mind are the facilities provided by AmaZulu FC. We worked on our fitness a lot. There were a lot of gym sessions that focussed on stamina building and core-strengthening. The games we played were against good teams of the South African Premier Soccer League, which gave us stiff competition. We also gelled well as a unit.

We did a lot of work with the ball in all the training exercises and the coach (Cesar Farias) focused on every individual's strengths. He was constantly making detailed observations and communicating to us where we need to improve and how to go about it. To me the unique aspect of the whole exercise was the intensity and the focus on working together as a team.

AS TOLD TO AMITABHA DAS SHARMA * * * THE SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Gennaro Bracigliano, Lalthuammawia Ralte and Rehenesh T. P.

Defenders: Cedric Hengbart, Miguel Garcia, Marlangki Suting, Aiborlang Khongjee, Yumnam Raju, Zohmingliana Ralte, Reagan Singh and Robin Gurung.

Midfielders: Simao Sabrosa, Silas, Kondwani Mtonga, Bruno Herrero Arias, Sanju Pradhan, Boithang Haokip, Seityasen Singh, Siam Hangal and Alan Deroy.

Forwards: Diomansy Kamara, Boubacar Sanogo, Ni-colas Velez, Holicharan Narzary and Francis Dadzie.