Head Coach profile: Habas, the disciplinarian whose hunger for success is insatiable

Image credit: atkmohunbaganfc @twitter

ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Antonio Lopez Habas certainly needs no introduction to Indian football fans. A two-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) winner with ATK FC, Habas is the most successful coach in the league’s history and has returned to Indian shores reinvigorated for a shot at another title.

If Habas does manage to win Indian football’s most coveted prize once again, he will go down as the first head coach to win the title in successive seasons.

A defender during his playing days, Habas represented Spanish outfits like Sevilla, Burgos CF and Real Murcia. Known for his passion and aggressive style of play, Habas boasts an abundance of experience and has previously been at the helm of several Spanish outfits.

He also comes with the experience of coaching an international side having managed the Bolivian national team and appeared with them in two Copa America tournaments, including a runner-up finish in the 1997 edition. However, it’s in India that he’s enjoyed most success as a head coach and he is also a fan-favourite.

The first-ever head coach to lift the Hero ISL trophy, his title winning campaign last season was a little different and showed that his team doesn’t always bank on the defence to get the better of opposition teams. The Spaniard laid to rest the notion that he fosters defensive teams with the help of talented attackers like Roy Krishna, David Williams and Edu Garcia at his disposal in Hero ISL 2019-20.

Habas’ men last season showed that they were more than capable of playing attractive football and that was reflected in the fact that only FC Goa managed to find the net more times than ATK FC. They scored 39 times and Habas’ ATK Mohun Bagan side looks likely to better that tally this season.

Habas’ teams aren’t about big names or star signings. He doesn’t like to label himself as an attacking or defensive head coach either. What really matters to him is discipline from his players – not just on the pitch but also off it.

“Within our style, it is a priority to have players who at the same time must be good professionals. I don't want good players and bad professionals, a footballer is a whole, and that's the profile we are looking for,” Habas once said while discussing what he looks for in players.

The importance placed by him on ‘discipline’ will stand the team in good stead owing to the unique nature of the league in the current climate which demands more from players than ever before. With players set to stay in a bio-bubble for the entirety of the campaign, mental strength and players’ discipline could well be defining factors. And that could very well work in Habas and ATK Mohun Bagan’s favour.

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