ISL 2017: Marco Materazzi - the major missing in the Chennaiyin FC fraternity
Marco Materazzi, the towering Italian defender and 2006 FIFA World Cup winner parted ways with Chennaiyin FC as their manager earlier this March. "Thala" Marco -- this was how the people of Chennai referred to their former gaffer. The respect and love he received from the fans was immense. The Italian, who was an aggressive defender himself during his days, was no different when he donned the managerial role.
He instilled the same aggression in the Chennai team's style of play. He added the Italian flavour to his side by recruiting some of his fellow countrymen like Davide Succi, Manuel Blasi and Alessandro Nesta over the years. His record was very impressive in his three years with the club as it finished as the table topper in the group stages in the first season of the ISL, before eventually losing to the Kerala Blasters in the semifinals.
In the second season in 2015, the side when on to win the tournament in dramatic fashion against FC Goa. In the third, though the team finished seventh on the table, it had put up some really good performances. Materazzi's aggressive style of play meant that the team was involved in a lot of tiffs (on and off the field), cards and controversies.
The ISL 2 final was marred by unwanted scenes as it ended in a scuffle with FC Goa skipping the prize distribution ceremony and accusing Chennaiyin marquee player Elano of hitting their owner. During the course of Season 2, the city of Chennai was badly hit by the floods of December 2015. The team was languishing at the bottom after the first round of group fixtures.
However, it was all about Thala Marco's resilience and the determination of his players that took the team all the way to the championship.The team recorded four consecutive victories when it was most needed at the end of the season. They wanted to win the title for the "People of Chennai" and it was a brilliant gesture by Marco and co to dedicate it to the flood-hit Chennai people.
He built a strong squad around a very talented core group of players, who were retained during the most part of his stay at the club. He even played seven matches for Chennaiyin FC as a player during the first ISL season in 2014 but was sent off during the semifinal against the Kerala Blasters, the most bizarre end to his career.
Having taken up the managerial role at the age of 41, he was more like a brother figure to his players. Infact, it is true to say that he did a good job in his first ever managerial stint, giving chances to young Indian players like Jerry Lalrinzuala, Siam Hanghal, Abhishek Das and Jayesh Rane and he really brought the best out of those young players.
He has been a phenomenal manager for Chennaiyin FC over the last three seasons. To think the "Materazzi Era" has ended is a bit disappoining. But in John Gregory, Chennaiyin have got a wonderful coach, no doubt. Hopefully, he will carry the Materazzi and Chennaiyin legacy forward.
With the ISL getting an AFC recognition, it gets bigger and better along with the additional two new teams this season and with the league running for over four months. Chennaiyin have a lot to look forward in this new season under their new gaffer.