FC Pune City manager Antonio Habas speaking ahead of the ISL game against NorthEast United reiterated the importance of Indian players and their performance, "We understand that in the beginning Indian football needs good players and very good international players and now after three years I have nearly 44 games in the ISL and it's true we need more Indian players in the squad."
"The level of Indian players in the last two years has increased a lot and we are really happy with our Indian players. So, from next year onwards we expect to have more Indian players." he continued.
This has been a familiar story this ISL season, the performance of Indian players seem to directly proportional to the performance of the teams. Delhi Dynamos, the second placed team, for example, had have the likes of Milan Singh, Kean Lewis and Anas Edathodika performing admirably for them.
The phenomenon is a contrast from the previous seasons, where the quality of the foreign players seemed to be one of the single most contributing factor in the team's performance for the season. The Spaniard though wasn't undermining their contribution to the general growth of the Indian players.
"This batch of Indian players and international players has helped Indian players grow and improve their performance. So, I think in the next one or two years we will see more Indian players and less international players," Antonio Habas said.
There has been a lot of debate/criticism on a maximum of 6 foreign player rule, which seems fair given that ultimate selling point of the League is pushing the Indian players. Especially, with teams having more Indian players doing considerable well (read Goa).
FC Pune City though have a chance to jump to second in the table, which is an achievement given how poorly they had started the season. "For me, it was a new city and for them (the players), it was a new coach. Ninety percent of the team was new. I was suspended for four games. So many things happened in the beginning" he said.
The Highlanders though are no pushovers, especially at home backed by the home fans, and Antonio Habas doesn't expect his team to get any freebies, he said"You all know in the beginning NorthEast was playing very well and was on top. They were playing very fast and we respect everyone. We have said to our players that NorthEast is one of the best teams in ISL so we think tomorrow is going to be very, very difficult."
That is the definition of saying the right things ahead of the game by Antonio Habas, but can his boys do it on the playing field? Only time will tell.
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