Viva la Portugal is FC Pune City’s season 5 pitch
Lain Hume is the player to watch this season, but all eyes are on new coach Miguel Angel Portugal
After three seasons of despondency, FC Pune City turned a new leaf in the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) last year, when they defied all odds to make the semi-finals, before eventually bowing out to Bengaluru FC.
Franco Colomba, David Platt and Antonio Lopez Habas all tried and failed at the helm as managers/ head coaches, but the fourth time seemed to be the charm as Ranko Popovic got the ‘Maratha stallions’ playing an exciting brand of football that had fans excited.
The club parted ways with the Serbian, opening the door for former Delhi Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal, for this ISL season.
Portugal has in his arsenal this season, new signing Iain Hume, arguably one of the most decorated players to contest the ISL.
Speaking to Hindustan Times from the club’s pre-season training in Goa, the Canadian says, “I’ve played under four to five Spanish coaches in my career and Miguel is cut from the same cloth. They’re all the same; they like playing football the right way. They all have a certain vibe to them are very passionate, and I think Miguel is the same. The good thing the club has done is that they’ve kept hold of the core team from last year and have added
“I’m very happy to be here, to be honest. There are a good group of guys; the staff behind the scenes was very welcoming. I haven’t spent too much time in the city as we’ve been in Goa, but I can’t to get started and get going once again. We’re nearly at full-strength here, barring a few guys playing at the SAFF under-23 championships, but once they’re back we’re ready to go and begin the season,” the 34-year-old added.
Hume, who is a former ATK and Kerala Blasters striker, said, “I think I’ve proven to everyone that age is not a number for me and I’m just as fit as anybody, so I’m glad about it. On the same note, I am also recovering from injury since February. When I injured my head several years ago, I was out for three months before I was back training. I just wanted to get back to playing football as quickly as I can and continued doing all that my rehab needed me to. Even now, at 34, I’m recovering from a knee injury and the fitness coach at the club has helped me get better thankfully.”
FC Pune City’s reserve goalkeeper Bilal Khan, who was impressive in the AWES Cup in Goa, from which the team has just returned, also spoke to Hindustan Times sharing his experiences of playing in the first-team.
Khan said, “I’ve learnt a lot in this year at FC Pune City. The players all have the right attitude and have helped me improve in every step of the way. Guys like Marcelinho, Alfaro and Gurtej Singh have worked with me and told me things I need to do to get better. I’m also happy with the chances Miguel has handed to be in the first team, and I’m only hoping to do well with the opportunities I get.”
The young goalkeeper also spoke about how important the team’s pre-season trip to Goa has been in inculcating a positive team spirit in the side.
“I think the journey has been fantastic. We have all our senior and overseas players here training and communicating with us. We are playing matches that is keeping our fitness levels in check and I think it’s extremely crucial for every team to play these kind of competitive games before every season begins.”
His compatriot in the reserve side, seeking to break into the first team after good AWES Cup performances, is midfielder Abhishek Halder. The young midfielder explained how Pune’s coaches have played a vital role in shaping his game.
“The coaches have a one-to-one relationship with everyone. They notice our performance in training games and tell us what we need to do by bringing up ISL examples. Aspects in my overall game such as passing, stamina, the ability to adapt to different kinds of players playing around me while also my footballing game have all dramatically improved here at FC Pune City.”
First Published: Sep 12, 2018 16:08:04