FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic raised a pertinent question about Indian football’s calendar. He mentioned that the long break for the players before the Indian Super League (ISL) begins isn’t ideal.
The I-League ended back in April last year and the Indian footballers haven’t had competitive football action for the last six months or so.
“I’m positively surprised with the talent and organization here. What is a matter of concern is the break from which they come back to play ISL as it’s a long one. It’s normal here but for me it’s not because in Europe you may have about a month long break.
“But I’ve to adapt myself to the circumstances and work around the guys accordingly. The good part is that there is big space for development and the players are eager to learn so it’s good. We are here to help all the players in a way that eventually it also helps to raise the level of football in India,” said the 50-year-old.
The Orange and Purple outfit haven’t made it into the knockout stages even once in three seasons. Popovic’s immediate task would be to ensure that they make the cut this time around.
“What I want my team to do is to try and fight till the end. I think that’s the honest way to express our loyalty to the club, to the people and the supporters of this club. If we happen to lose during the course, at least no one will be unhappy with the performance as everyone will say these guys are doing all what they can do,” said the former Buriram United coach.
Pune have several young players in their squad this season and Popovic mentioned that he isn’t shy from fielding them in his first eleven. He pointed that it’s the quality of the player which matters as opposed to his age.
“Of course the youth team players have done well, but I don’t like to look at my team which has young and old players. Quality is most important, whether it’s a young or an old player. If he doesn’t have the quality why bring him in and break his confidence while playing quality opponents? For roping in young players, we must be very careful about the timing of introducing them into main teams.
“The team must be ready to accept young players and protect them in a way that they are developed in the right way. If you rope a young player too early, maybe that may not help him in the longer run and may become the worst moment of his career. It’s a very sensitive part of our job. I like young players but the important thing is to educate them about the pressures of playing in the main team, how to play the game at this level, for which he may not be at his best potential. It’s an education for them for the entire season and not for one particular match,” he explained.
He mentioned that there are a few young players who, in his opinion, can certainly graduate into the main team for this ISL season.
“We are starting to build the base this season. But for sure I will bring in players who deserve a shot at the main team. I feel we have some young players who are ready but I don’t want to take names because it can create unnecessary pressure on them. We want those players to enjoy and express themselves as such pressure can stop them from being themselves,” he shared his thoughts.
FC Pune City kick-start their ISL campaign against Delhi Dynamos on November 22nd in Pune.