Defending champions of the Hero Indian Super League, Chennaiyin FC, play their first home game on Thursday, October 6, when they host the Delhi Dynamos. This will be their second game in this year's edition after they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw away against Atletico de Kolkata in their opener on Sunday.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Marco Materazzi, head coach of Chennaiyin FC, said his team was under no extra pressure as a result of being the winners from last term.
“I think we have to divide between pressure and obsession. We have no pressure because we won it the last time and there is no obsession also because of that. It is a pleasure to defend the title and that's what we'll do till the last game. So I'm not putting any pressure on my players that way and I'm very happy with things so far”, said the Italian.
The defending champions led 2-1 in their opener against Kolkata after being a goal down, but Iain Hume’s late penalty meant the points were shared. Speaking about the incident Materazzi first up offered his apologies to the referee after having questioned the decision in the post-match press conference after that game.
Chennaiyin’s coach went on to say that Jerry's inexperience may have had a role in it but supported his player adding, “...but, he's just 18 and it's okay for him to make these mistakes now. What we need to make sure is to learn from these mistakes, be cautious in the penalty area. Once Jerry learns that, he's ready to play during the whole league.”
Nallapan Mohanraj and Jerry, who came on for him later on, manned the left-back position in place of the injured Dhanachandra Singh against Kolkata. The Italian spoke about that decision and player rotation in general saying, “Since Dhana is injured, I have to make the best first XI. It was a tough job for both Mohanraj and Jerry against good opponents. I will try to put in the best players, but I can also make mistakes.”
Chennaiyin over the two seasons have been a team that has had a strong Indian core. Materazzi stressed on their importance to his team but did express his reservations about the rule that prevents the young U-19 players, who he dubs 'the kids’, from playing.
“My only regret is that the ones I call the 'kids’ can't play as per the rules. For now, I can play only Jerry, but there's also Daniel who is on duty with his team. I have two more very good kids in Anirudh and Prasanjit. I think this should change in the ISL regulations because if you don't give the chance for these players to play and develop. For Indian football to grow we have to allow them to play”, Materazzi had to say.
On changes over the time he's been here, Chennaiyin’s coach took some time out to reflect on the improvements made behind the scenes at the club. “I cannot speak for other clubs, but as you know we had some issues in our first season. We didn't have a training pitch, I want to thank the university for making their training pitch available to us. From the second season onward, though, we started building our own training pitch and it's the best training pitch I could want, it's perfect in every way. So I want to thank the government and the club for this opportunity. We have all that we want and all that we need to have perfect training sessions”, added the Italian.
Materazzi will be pitting his wits tomorrow against a former national colleague of his in Gianluca Zambrotta, with whom he won the FIFA World Cup together in 2006. Asked about the challenge of going up against the new Delhi coach Materazzi said, “First of all I know him as a player and not a coach. I'm happy to see him here in India, it's a great chance for him to grow as a manager and I wish him the best to become champions, but maybe after tomorrow, because we want to be champions again.”
Chennaiyin FC take on Delhi Dynamos at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai tomorrow. The game kicks off at 7 PM Indian Standard Time.