By Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay,
AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: Right from day one at the helm of Bengaluru FC, the soft-spoken Spaniard coach Albert Roca had a heavier responsibility to live up the expectations of the fans and until now, he passed the test with flying colours. Within 2 months of taking the charge, the ex-Barcelona assistant coaching coach took the Blues to the AFC Cup final, first ever Indian club to attain the enviable feat.
Now, on the eve of embarking his I-League journey, the eloquent gaffer spoke exclusively to www.i-league.org about the expectations from his team, his strategy before the league and much more. EXCERPTS:
Having reached the AFC Cup final, the expectations will be sky high on your team. How are you equipped to approach the I-League?
To put it very simply, we’re going to be approaching it like a team that wants to retain the title. We are not under the slightest impression that any game or phase of this I-League will be easy. In fact, the expectations of the fans and the standards that we have set for ourselves will only make the task tougher but we are up for the challenge. The AFC Cup was a great experience and I am really proud of the way my boys performed. More importantly, it provided Indian football the world of good and we should look to build on it.
Bengaluru FC have won I-league twice in three years, extra pressure on you to live up the expectations?
Like I said, it’s not going to be easy. The fans and everyone else too will be following us closely. But we’re going to be working hard to keep this title in Bengaluru. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have always proved tough competitors and title contenders and we now have two new teams that we know nothing about. It’s going to be an interesting challenge that we cannot wait to face. That said we will not be playing any game under pressure. If we play like we train, the results will take care of themselves.
With Alvaro Rubio’s departure, is the midfield going to be a bit edgy?
Alvaro brought a lot of experience to the side and his are big shoes to fill. But I have no doubt at all about the kind of talent we possess on this team. I’m expecting the midfielders on the team to look at this as a big chance to prove a point or two.
Have you consulted with Ashley to get the insights of the I-League rivals?
No, I haven’t. The coaching staff has been sitting often with the team analyst, looking to pick insights on the teams. We’ve also followed the ISL closely to track players that will turn out for rival clubs in the League.
Daniel, Malsawmzuala, Nishu excelled last season. Is the next AIFF academy product Gursimrat ready for the forthcoming I-League?
Guru is a hard working boy with good ethics. He’s always giving his 100% and is keen on improving which is a good sign for a youngster. Only time will tell whether he’s ready for the I-League but I do know that when he gets his chance, he will look to make the most of it.
What’ll be your message to your fans before the I-League starts?
We’re going to need your support more than ever. The way the fans turned out for the semifinal against JDT was incredible and they played a big part in the result we achieved on that night. I hope our run in the AFC Cup has generated more interest among fans and they all turn up in huge numbers through the season. Your fans will always be a very important part of this club’s success and let’s win some more trophies together.