Miguel Portugal: Hero ISL will see the Virat Kohli of Indian football emerge

The fourth season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is just around the corner and the coaching staff and players of ATK, Delhi Dynamos FC, Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC gathered for Media Day at the Novotel Hotel in Kolkata. They indulged in candid Q&A sessions where they shared their thoughts on the league and matters regarding Indian football.

This season, the clubs will have to field at least six Indian players and the move has been lauded by the foreign coaches, saying that the tweak in the rule this season will help develop local players.

ATK head coach and former Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham was one of those who encouraged this system.

“I think it's a good decision to have six Indians on the pitch at all times because it means Indians getting more chances to play and show their skills,” he said.

John Gregory, head coach of Chennaiyin FC, also approved of the same.

“We don't have a marquee signing this year, but you will see that we have invested our money in young Indians who will not just come on for 10 minutes, but will form an integral part of my squad this season,” he explained.

NorthEast United's head coach João Carlos Pires de Deus was one among many pleasantly surprised with the quality of Indian footballers they’ve worked with so far.

“You ask me if the Brazilians in my team will produce magic. But what is magic?” he questioned. “It’s not limited to Brazilians. Even the Indian players in our team are very skillful and can produce a lot of magic. You see the kid with blonde hair in the U-17 World Cup team (Komal Thatal) and he was producing magic. So, it’s not limited to a nationality,” he further elaborated.

Jamshedpur FC gaffer Steve Coppell too voiced his support regarding the rule, adding that things like these have helped the ISL improve the overall quality of Indian football.

“Rubbing shoulders with top players has made a huge difference to Indian footballers,” the Englishman offered. “You see them play with marquee signings and come up against top class forwards and midfielders, and it automatically builds their confidence and the game.”

“You see these foreigners and how they carry themselves and take care of their body and the Indian players get inspired by that. The Hero ISL has played a huge role in this development,” added Coppell, who is now into his second ISL season.

Delhi Dynamos FC custodian Albino Gomes will look to get a lot of games under his belt after making the switch from Mumbai City FC.

He spoke about how their head coach Miguel Angel Portugal is bringing subtle changes to his game.

“The facilities, the coaching style, the technicalities - all play a role and have made me a better player,” Gomes explained. “For example, our coach wants to see me come out of the box and play as a sweeper sometimes and keep the ball down.”

Portugal himself heaped praise on the league: “The Hero ISL will eventually see a player emerge - someone like the Virat Kohli of Indian football - who will then carry the team in the future and inspire youngsters to play the sport. The development of youngsters is very important for any country's progress in a sport and this league will help in that,” Portugal said. 

The Hero ISL kicks off on November 17 with a high-profile clash between Kerala Blasters and ATK at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.

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