Miguel Martinez: the man keeping Atlético de Kolkata fit
Atlético de Kolkata has been in top form and fitness since the beginning of the tournament. Despite the packed fixture schedule in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), the Kolkata-based team has been operating at an optimum level of fitness on the pitch. Having a squad which is arguably fitter than the rest of the competition is always a big advantage to any team. Most importantly, it allows a team to gel and settle quickly as the coach can have an uninterrupted combination of players on the pitch, helping the team develop rhythm to their play.
Behind this agile Kolkata squad, there is one man who works relentlessly to keep these footballers on their toes. All the “Fikrubatics” from star striker Fikru Teferra Lamessa, the diving saves by keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury or the electric sprints of Baljit Sahni along the wings have been a result of the extensive work put in behind-the-seasons under the supervision of fitness coach Miguel Martinez.
In the team’s training sessions, one can notice this man’s intense involvement. He is always running, shouting and clapping to charge up the players to be always on their toes through different drills and activities. Even during the matches one can often notice this man sweating it out with the reserves to keep them ready for the action. Martinez’s vast experience in his field, earned in varying locales across the world, including Spain’s La Liga, the South African Premier League, and even a stint with the Angolan national team, is a big gain for any franchise.
“The competition is different here. This is the third continent I have come to work, and I always try to give my best in these new challenges,” Martinez said in an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com. Citing his previous stint in La Liga, Martinez related that his fitness regime is based on the fast and intense level of European football. “I am here to share my experiences with the people here. I will be happy if they can learn from me,” he added.
Atlético de Kolkata’s squad includes a large Spanish contingent, something that is mutually beneficial for Martinez. His compatriots are familiar with his methods and thus can help their teammates adapt, but also, Miguel’s experience of working across the world means he can help bridge the language gap between the Spanish-speaking players and the rest of the team. From communication within the team management to several interactions with the media, he has been the go-to-man for his team. “The first challenge is to try and get along with different cultures and nationalities,” he emphasised.
Martinez says the format of the ISL has been his biggest challenge as fitness coach. “We don’t get enough time to train (between the matches), we just have to recover quickly and get ready to compete in the next match,” he said. “We are trying to implement our ‘prevention programme’ to reduce the injuries, and trying to work as a tight team with the physio and the doctors.”
And the hard work and planning has clearly paid off for Atlético de Kolkata. The side have been playing a fast and aggressive brand of football, and in defence, they apply intense pressure in order to win the ball back. This style of play requires high fitness levels, even more so given that games come thick and fast. Not only have Kolkata maintained their tempo consistently across their games, they have used this style to establish themselves as one of the contenders for the first ISL title. If that were to happen, Martinez would deserve much of the credit for his work with the squad.