Wayne Vaz: League expansion has taken the competition to another level
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions it imposed, the upcoming season of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) is set to take place in Goa, and in the expanded league eleven teams will battle it out for the four play-off places. NorthEast United FC, having qualified for the playoffs only once, will be looking to set themselves a realistic target of a top-4 finish this season under new head coach Gerard Nus.
“The expectations from the upcoming season are a bit of a challenge with regard to the new normal. We as players have to take the necessary precautions and follow the guidelines put forth by the league, to keep ourselves and our teammates safe and healthy. The league is happening in Goa itself, which is a plus point for us, the players,” NorthEast United FC defender Wayne Vaz told indiansuperleague.com recently.
Talking about the expansion of the league, Vaz said, “With the addition of SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan, the competition has grown to another level. We play more games and compete against better players in different teams. We as players are really happy and content to be getting to do what we love, and play football through these difficult times.”
Young guns Ninthoinganba Meetei, fondly known as Ninthoi, and Lalengmawia too voiced their opinions. While Ninthoi bemoaned the lack of fans in the stadiums and the sultry weather conditions of Goa, Lalengmawia was excited about the retention of Federico Gallego, who has been an integral player for the Highlanders for the last couple of seasons.
“It's really hard without fans in the stadium. It is completely different from last season, because of COVID-19. We are going to play all the matches in Goa, where the atmosphere is too hot. I hope everyone will watch all our games. We hope the fans keep supporting us as we need their support,” the forward said.
“Federico is back for a third season. He has played amazingly for us for two seasons. It was difficult for him after the injury, but he has made a great comeback and scored goals. It was a great opportunity for me to play alongside him. So I'm looking forward to a great season ahead,” the midfielder said.
NorthEast United FC kick off their Hero ISL campaign against Mumbai City FC on November 21 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco.