The importance of having a stable and dependable defence cannot be overstated in football, be it anywhere around the world. It is no different in the Indian Super League (ISL) as well.
A strong defence has been the hallmark of most of the champion sides in the ISL, as ATK will attest to in the previous season. A frugal defence meant that a swashbuckling Chennaiyin attack was muzzled to an extent by ATK in the final.
Chennaiyin FC this time around will be looking to build a strong rearguard as they hunt for their third ISL title in the upcoming season. After renewing the contract of Brazilian defender Eli Sabia, they have now roped in Bosnian Enes Sipovic to partner him in central defence.
Expectations will be high on the 30-year-old who is set to become the first-ever Bosnian to play in the ISL when season seven starts later this year in Goa. However, the ISL is not a new commodity for Sipovic who admits that he had been following the league ever since its inception in 2014.
India is a country that has always fascinated Sipovic and his family and he jumped at the chance of joining a club from the country. But the former Oțelul Galați (Romania) player is not coming on vacation. In his own words, he means business.
"Like I mentioned, I have been aware of the ISL and Chennaiyin FC from the very first season in 2014. And India as a country and the place has always fascinated me, my wife and my family. I am a big fan of the Indian culture, especially Bollywood already," Sipovic told Goal.
"But I am not coming to India as a tourist now. I am coming with an objective to help my team achieve success. I will work very hard to give the fans and the club all the joy that it deserves.
"And it is a tremendous honour for me to become the first player to represent Bosnia in the ISL."somorja.sk
In addition to his fascination with India, a conversation with head coach Csaba Laszlo also played a huge part in Sipovic deciding to try out his luck in India. He has evidently bought into Laszlo's plans for the club.
Of course, it would not have hurt that Lazlo was born in Romania where Sipovic spent a considerable amount of time in his early years as a player.
"My conversations with the coach have been very productive, and I can say that he is one of the main reasons for me to join Chennaiyin FC," he revealed. "He has explained to me what he expects of me, in terms of tactics and training. And I am very excited for the challenge.
"His plans are very clear, to help the club begin and finish the season on a high. And we as a team will do everything possible to achieve that vision."
To his credit, Sipovic is aware of the achievements of Chennaiyin FC in the past, including some of the star players who have played for the club.
"I have been aware of the club, especially since the first few seasons with legends like Marco Materazzi and Elano being a part of the club. There is a lot of success and history that the club has accumulated in a short period of time.
"So I am very happy to follow in the footsteps and become part of such a beautiful club, which is made so by it's wonderful fans. It is a pity we will not be able to play in front of them, in the city of Chennai. It is something that truly makes me sad, but it is what it is and we must respect the situation."Getty Images
Standing tall at an impressive 6'6", Sipovic is certain to tower over opposition attackers in the Chennaiyin penalty box. Add to the fact that his partner Eli Sabia is also 6'2" tall, the Marina Machans will have an advantage when it comes to defending aerial balls and set-pieces.
Sipovic admits that heading and interceptions are his strengths and that he is looking forward to his partnership with Sabia.
"Headers, interceptions and football intelligence are my strengths as a defender, in my opinion. Football intelligence, especially, is the most important as a defender which is to anticipate the attacking strategy of the opponent.
"I am so happy that I will be playing alongside Eli Sabia. I have seen his videos, he is a great player. I believe we will strike a good partnership and go about our job efficiently," he assessed.
Interestingly, Sipovic is set to replace Romanian defender Lucian Goian at Chennaiyin this season. Sipovic had played against Goian during his time in Romania with Otelul Galati but doesn't think Goian would be remembering the episode.
"I have played against Lucian Goian at the start of my career. I was very young, around 18-19 years old. I don't think he remembers that game! I haven't had a chance to speak to him so far, about Chennaiyin FC and the ISL," he explained.
Having been a bit of a journeyman in his career, Sipovic has played in Morocco, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and most recently in Qatar before he took up Chennaiyin's offer. The 'all-weather' experiences will help him adapt better to India and the climate in the sub-continent, feels Sipovic.
"Yes, I do have experience of playing in Asia, especially the Gulf countries where the weather is extremely hot and harsh. I have played matches in 48 degrees in the previous season, and in Saudi Arabia. Same in Morocco, when I played in the African Champions League. It was very, very hot. I have coped with those conditions.
"Fortunately, my body is prepared for everything. In Romania, I have played in -10 degrees. So it doesn't matter, I adapt myself very fast!"
Such a battle-hardened attitude will be something that Chennaiyin FC will hope shines through in the Bosnian's maiden campaign in India.