Two-time Hero I-League champions Churchill Brothers FC Goa have had a busy transfer window, with some big-name signings for the upcoming season. While the likes of Ikechukwu Kenneth Ngwoke, Komron Tursunov, Bryce Miranda, and many others have left the club, the Red Machines have signed others like Pedro Tanausú Domínguez Placeres (Tana) and Abdoulaye Sané who bring in the quality European experience, and the veteran defender Raju Gaikwad, who will impart the experience to their defence.
Head coach Antonio Rueda, who missed a major chunk of last season due to COVID, will now get a second crack at the piñata. The https://i-league.org caught up with Rueda, as the 41-year-old spoke of his plans for the upcoming season. EXCERPTS:
Q.What has been the strategy in the transfer market? Has there been a particular position or player the club has targeted?
A. The main strategy has been to watch many videos, and many different player profiles and imagine what was best for the club. Our budget is limited and we have had to choose quite well. We wanted versatile players, who could adapt to any situation and I think we have achieved it. We have what we wanted.
Another part of the strategy has been to keep Indian players like Kingslee (Fernandes), Gogou (Lamgoulen Gou Hangshing), Richard (Costa), Clemente (Joseph), Shubert (Pereira), Wendell (Savio Coelho), and Nora (Fernandes). It was very important.
Q.Churchill Brothers FC have made 11 new signings. How has that impacted the squad?
A. Yes, the losses of Saurav (Mandal) and Bryce (Miranda) were difficult to cover, so we had to look at specific profiles. That also influenced the decision of the Asian foreigner. And the Indian players that have come are at the level we wanted.
As for Tana and Sané, they are players with great experience, everyone knows that, but above all, they are players with a great personality and great humanity. They are contributing so much on the pitch with their knowledge and skills. It is a pleasure to have them.
Q.Churchill Brothers had scored the lowest amongst the top five teams in the Hero I-League last season. With the club’s top scorer Kenneth Ikechukwu departing the club, what has been your approach towards the team’s attacking game?
A. Yes, it may seem strange. When I arrived, I met Kenneth as a player and as a person, in both facets, he is incredible. But we decided on a different player profile for this year. And I think that his delivery, sacrifice, and quality it is very difficult to improve on. However, we are looking to make up for that in other areas of the pitch this season.
Q.Going into the new season what has been your approach? What are the changes you have made from last season and what should fans expect from the team?
A. We want to continue being a fearsome team in the opposition area. And a very intense team in individual duels, both offensive and defensive. And of course, having fans in the stands will help us.
Q.How has been your side’s preparation for the new season?
A. The most difficult thing is to prepare the team without knowing the exact starting date. That must be an aspect that Indian football needs to improve if it wants to continue to grow. It’s a sleeping giant, but to wake up, you have to do the most basic things right.
Even so, we prepare with the greatest enthusiasm to reach 100 per cent for the first game. And the team is getting there.
Q.What role will fans play in the coming season given the Hero I-league format has shifted back to home and away fixtures?
A. For me the most important thing is that the fans are returning to the stands. We and all the teams work to bring joy to them. They deserve it. They are the ones who support football. Although, I always try to win on the pitch and work towards it, I try not to look at who the fans are supporting, be it us, or the opponents. I hope that it will be a season to enjoy with the fans, and that at last Indian Football unifies its leagues. That will be the best thing for the competition, fans and for the National Team.
Q.What are your predictions for the league? Where do you see Churchill Brothers finishing at the end of the season?
A. I think it will be a very even and closely contested league. There will be hardly any difference in points between the first and last positions. All the teams have been reinforced very well. Last season, any team could beat anyone, and this year I think it will be the same.