Abhishek Bachchan: Retained players are the backbone of the team
The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) has seen two champions in three years with Atlético de Kolkata winning the inaugural edition as well as the 2016 season. Chennaiyin FC are the only other side besides the Kolkata giant to have laid hands on the coveted trophy after their Hero ISL 2015 triumph. The southerners had a slightly underwhelming performance last year and ended up finishing a lowly seventh in the standings. However, as we gear up for a fresh campaign with two more teams and a longer season, Chennai’s co-owner Abhishek Bachchan sees more positives than negatives. In a chat with indiansuperleague.com regarding his team this year, he highlighted the same.
Bachchan seemed happy with the players signed by Chennaiyin FC but was wary about the other teams, who are building quality squads themselves. He believes it will give the league a competitive edge like never before. “I think everybody has signed great squads,” he said. “We are very happy with the Chennaiyin squad but even the other teams have made some wonderful signings. So, I think it’s going to be a good competitive long league which is what the sport and the fans need. We have two more teams as well, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Of course, a longer season also brings it's own set of challenges with it for teams. “Keeping the squad fit is a big challenge,” the Bollywood actor revealed. “This is always a concern for any team as they all want to keep the players fit and [have them] playing to the optimum throughout the course of the season.”
Bachchan also stressed that giving youngsters a chance is something his team has always put faith in. “We at Chennaiyin FC have always believed in supporting our youth and giving them a run in the system that would hopefully help them make their debut in the senior squad. We believe in banking a lot on our youth,” he said.
While expanding further on Chennai’s policy of always encouraging the youth, he added: “Both Anirudh (Thapa) and Jerry (Lalrinzuala) have been part of the Chennaiyin family since last season. We are happy they came in as youngsters and to see them come back into the squad is very exciting for us. Anirudh played the last match of the season and Jerry had a very active role throughout. (Also) Germanpreet (Singh) is a very exciting player and we are very happy to have him in the Chennai team.”
Having said that, Bachchan was keen on emphasising the need to keep a core group of players intact from the past few seasons. “Retained players have literally been the backbone of the team, if you take someone like Rafa (Raphael Augusto) or Jeje (Lalpekhlua), they all form an integral part of our squad. Karanjit (Singh) has been amazing for us between the sticks and there is a sense of balance that I’m happy with,” Bachchan concluded.