Rohan Sharma keen to preserve Odisha FC's identity

Rohan Sharma Odisha FCISL

In the last few years, Odisha FC, formerly known as Delhi Dynamos, have been able to create an identity as a club that gives opportunities of young Indian players. 

The team from Bhubaneswar will once again have a lot of young and talented Indian players when they take the field for the seventh season of Indian Super League (ISL) which starts on November 20. 

With only days remaining for their first match of the season against Hyderabad on November 23 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, Rohan Sharma is super proud of the core Indian group at the club which includes Vinit Rai, Nandhakumar Sekar and Shubham Sarangi. 

"I have always wanted younger players (in the team). I did not have a young core (initially at Delhi Dynamos). I feel I have my core now, we have a young team. This team is young but they have also played a lot of matches together. The young kids are coming in and taking over. You are seeing it happen (all in other leagues as well)," Odisha FC owner Rohan Sharma told Goal

"The good news is that I love that our team is close. Off the pitch, they are very close and bond together. To me, that is a very important mark of a strong team. You can buy a very expensive foreigner but if he doesn't respect the Indian players and the scene, then you start from ground zero. And I have had that at Delhi Dynamos, foreign players who just took off once we dropped to eighth. We have the right mentality now in the team."

He further added, "I am so proud of my Indian players. They were bench players at Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United. People refer to Odisha as a young club, young players who come here know they have a chance."

While Odisha are set to continue giving youngsters a chance, Rohan expressed his bemusement at the situation of ATK Mohun Bagan defender Sumit Rathi who won the ISL Emerging Player award last season. Rathi, who took his chances at centre-back and impressed for ATK last season, will face competition from new signings Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri. 

Shubham Sarangi, Odisha FCISL

"I feel bad for Sumit Rathi. He had a great season and now he is in a crowded defence. He (could be) on the bench. I never want that to happen with my boys."

The likes of ATK Mohun Bagan, SC East Bengal and Mumbai City have made some impressive moves in the transfer market. However, Rohan Sharma isn't too bothered and is not afraid of the possibility of a gap in quality that may occur once the season kicks off. 

He said, "At the end of the day, there is a salary cap. I can control only my club. I am happy with the way our Indian boys have developed compared to other clubs. Some clubs may buy, but as you have seen European football, it doesn't translate to success. I have grown my players to love the club. I wanted players who would love playing for this club. This year Vinit, Nandhakumar had offers, Shubham turned down an international offer to stay. That means a lot to me.

"Mumbai City's roster is sexy but they can still lose. East Bengal could get the whole League One (third division) from England but I am not scared of East Bengal, I am not scared of anybody. We still have good players in our team. My coach (Stuart Baxter) is not scared," Rohan concluded. 

Odisha have signed experienced players such as Steven Taylor and Marcelinho to bolster their foreign player department. The club that finished three points adrift of fourth place last season will be hoping to make it to the playoffs this time around with a new coach on board and a lot of young, exciting talent.