Materazzi bids emotional farewell to Chennaiyin FC
Marco Materazzi’s highly successful spell in the Hero Indian Super League with Chennaiyin FC ended on Monday after the club confirmed that they have parted company with the Italian FIFA World Cup winner by mutual consent. Materazzi joined the Super Machans in the inaugural edition of the Hero ISL and donned the role of player-cum-coach.
“We thank Marco for three memorable seasons and wish him the very best for the future. He will forever be a Chennaiyin FC legend and is also guaranteed a place in ISL history. Marco will always be warmly welcomed back in Chennai and especially at the Marina Arena," Chennaiyin FC’s co-owners stated in a joint statement.
He guided Chennai to the semi-finals in Hero ISL 2014 after finishing top of the table at the end of the league stage. Their attacking style of play saw them end the campaign as the league’s leading scorers (27 goals) before bowing out against Kerala Blasters FC 4-3 on aggregate in the semis. Materazzi made seven appearances for the Super Machans over the course of the season before returning as head coach the following the year.
His second season at the helm saw Chennai script a stunning comeback from the bottom of the table halfway through the season to eventually emerging champions. Materazzi’s inspirational presence saw them go on a record-setting five-match winning run that saw them go from the brink of elimination to the final four.
His title triumph with Chennai also came at a time when the city was plagued by the devastating floods. Be that as it may, they won in dramatic fashion in the grand finale against FC Goa as they came back from being 2-1 down in the 87th minute to finishing as 3-2 winners at the final whistle.
Even though the 2015 champions suffered a below-par season last year, Chennaiyin’s gung-ho style of football saw them involved in several entertaining and high-scoring matches, including a 3-3 draw against NorthEast United FC and a 5-4 defeat to FC Goa in what was the highest-scoring game in Hero ISL history. The 43-year-old’s silver-lining from the last season, however, came in the form of young Jerry Lalrinzuala who emerged as one of the revelations of the league.
His confidence in Lalrinzuala was duly rewarded as the young left-back bagged the ISL Emerging Player of the League award at end of the season before receiving his first call-up to the national fold in Stephen Constantine’s 31-man probables list for India’s opening AFC Asian Cup qualifiers match.
The Italian legend, who remains the most successful coach in the history of the Hero ISL with maximum wins, commented on his departure, saying: "These past three seasons with Chennaiyin have been a great adventure on a sports and human level. I leave the club today grateful to have been given the opportunity to contribute in my own modest way to the shaping of India as a football nation and most of all grateful to have lived first-hand the birth and growth of Chennaiyin FC. Incredible team, incredible fans, incredible India!"