ISL 2017: Mehtab Hossain - 'Bengaluru FC has the biggest advantage!

Mehtab Hossain NorthEast United FC Kerala Blasters ISL Season 3 2016
The former Kerala Blasters midfielders said that Blues' retention of their core players have gained them an advantage going into the season..

Mehtab Hossain has expressed his excitement at rejoining Steve Coppell at Jamshedpur FC ahead of season 4 of the Indian Super League (ISL).

The former East Bengal midfielder played under the tutelage of English coach last season at Kerala Blasters and talked up his off the pitch relationship with him. 

"I'm very happy to rejoin Coppell. I have learnt a lot from him. I am learning from him not only football but in life. Even when we lost the first three matches (last season), Coppell told us to keep going and that's how we went into the playoffs."

Mehtab and Coppell will be back in familiar surroundings in the second fixture of the season when they travel to Kochi to take on Kerala Blasters and the midfielder said he was looking forward to it. 

"I miss the passion of Kochi. I am a professional and I have to give 100 percent to my team. But I am excited to go back," Hossain said. 

Speaking of the challenges with his new side, he cautioned that fans should not expect much from Jamshedpur in their debut season while naming Bengaluru FC as the front-runners for the title. 

"I always thought football was not popular in Jamshedpur. But I was wrong," Hossain confessed. "People are crazy about football there. There's a lot of passion. The craze will increase if we win the first two or three matches."

However, he continued, "It's a new team, new city. It's a challenge. You have to travel a lot - like going to airports is a two-hour journey. Fans should not expect a lot. We will try our best. We hope to do well. It's a historic occasion for the city. I think Bengaluru FC has the biggest advantage as they have almost all the players from last season."

To support his claim, Hossain reasoned, "They (Bengaluru FC) have the same team for almost three years. They are match fit playing in the AFC Cup. And we have the biggest disadvantage with everything brand new. I was talking to Sunil (Chhetri) and he said that Bengaluru FC are going to be a top professional team and they are doing it now. They don't think much about I-League. They want to play AFC Cup finals."

Mehtab Hossain went on to explain how Indian football has benefitted from playing under the British system and mentioned that the Spanish style is not meant for Indians.

"Indian football's leap is justified by our current ranking. When we started, defensive midfielders were just supposed to defend. There were no box-to-box midfielders but now there are. Coppell is a huge influence and he is a mighty disciplined person. He does not point fingers. We have a collective responsibility."

"Indians cannot play in the Spanish style. No Indian has that first touch. We play direct football more like British. In ISL, Spaniards achieved success because they brought loads of Spaniards with them."

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The 32-year-old recognises the time left in his career as limited with the urge of winning the title a priority.

"I have to play (to win) whatever time that is left of my career. A trophy will be an icing on the cake. Everyone is not that lucky. Look at (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi - they might get Ballon d'Or but the World Cup has eluded them," he illustrated.

Talking about the future pool of talent in the country, Hossain said, "Jerry (Mawihmingthanga) can be next Sunil Chhetri if everything goes well. There is a goalkeeper in TFA, Rafique. (He is) very talented, dedicated and can play for the national team in next three-to-four years."