Van Veldhoven’s tactical tinkering does wonders for Dynamos

Harm Van Veldhoven...a dynamic coach.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

After six matches without a win, Dynamos won two in a row. This helped the side’s self-belief, a quality it seemed to have forgotten earlier in the competition.

Francis Fernandes has been one of Delhi Dynamos’ steadiest players this season. The same can’t be said about the team’s form but the Goan was at the forefront of his side’s late resurgence in the competition, literally and metaphorically.

Deployed as a centre forward, Fernandes grabbed three assists in Dynamos’ crucial wins over Northeast United FC and Mumbai City FC. He particularly caused trouble by pulling defenders into uncomfortable positions.

“Our coach (Harm van Veldhoven) wanted me to play as a striker. I have played in that fashion with the national team too. He gave me tips to go on the wings to pull defenders along,” said Fernandes after Dynamos’ 4-1 thumping of Mumbai.

Van Veldhoven’s tactical tinkering was crucial to his side’s form upturn. He had constantly pointed out the difficulties in changing tactics when a team has to play a match every third or fourth day.

After Dynamos lost 0-1 at home to Kerala Blasters, the side had a week-long break before it played NEUFC. This was time enough to refashion the side’s approach.

The side played in the usual 4-3-3 formation but the shape and movement were particularly fresh. Gustavo dos Santos and Shylo Malsawmtluanga — the latter was replaced by Mads Junker against Mumbai — started out wide but rapidly exchanged positions with each other and Fernandes.

A stable midfield unit marshalled by Hans Mulder removed many complications for Dynamos. Henrique Dinis and Shylo moved forward with confidence while Mulder got a goal against Mumbai.

After six matches without a win, Dynamos won two in a row. This helped the side’s self-belief, a quality it seemed to have forgotten earlier in the competition.

Ganguly confident

Atletico de Kolkata had a month-long pre-season training at Los Angeles de San Rafael, a high altitude facility in Madrid. This is where Atletico Madrid train before the La Liga championship.

The Kolkata-based team made a fluent beginning and topped the table during the first half of the ISL action. But later, the team had a rough ride and there was news of disquiet and discontentment between the players and the mercurial coach Antonio Habas. The team lost its top perch. Sides like Chennaiyin FC, FC Goa and Kerala Blasters found a way to derail Habas’ tiki-taka. There were reports about dressing room fracas as the team struggled to regain its winning rhythm.

“Which sport in the world doesn’t have its share of controversies?” asked the team co-owner Sourav Ganguly. “This is part of the game. Let me inform you that the nucleus of the team is firmly together and eager to reach the semifinals.

This is important to me,” Ganguly said. The former Indian cricket team captain has decided to travel with the team and motivate it. “We started brilliantly, drifted a little in the middle and will end on a high note,” said Ganguly with full confidence.

Good to see the crowd back

The ISL matches in Chennai have witnessed an average attendance of over 18,000. This has surprised many. For, over the last decade, the spectators to the Nehru Stadium for the city’s premier league, the senior division, have dwindled. This might be due to the declining standards in the league and further the fans are treated to quality football, like the English Premier league, live on television.

Chennai did have a glorious football tradition in the 60s, when fans thronged the Corporation Stadium (now Nehru Stadium) to watch players like Gunapandian, Arumainayagam, Dhanapathy, Orlando Rayen and Nagesh ply their trade. This is what the 72-year-old R. Shanmugam, a former Integral Coach Factory and Tamil Nadu stopper-back, has to say: “We had cement galleries at the Corporation Stadium. Easily, around 20,000-30,000 people used to come and watch teams like WIMCO, Integral Coach Factory, Southern Railway, Reserve Bank of India and State Bank of India. The entry fee then would be ranging from 20 paise to One Rupee. The football was top-class.”

The decline, according to Shanmugam, started in the 1990s after the Nehru Stadium started hosting senior division (then first division) league ties. “As the Stadium was huge with a capacity of around 40,000, even a crowd of 5000 looked very less. And moreover, the quality wasn’t up to the expectations,” he said.

Shanmugam, who was part of the Tamil Nadu team which entered the semifinals of the Santosh Trophy in 1971 in Chennai, felt happy that the spectators are finally turning up in huge numbers to watch football, thanks to the good standard in ISL.

Priyansh, Amitabha Das Sharma & K. Keerthivasan