Odisha FC coach Kiko Ramirez highlights squad chemistry as an essential factor for successful Hero ISL season

Odisha FC’s previous Hero Indian Super League (ISL) campaign was one to forget. The Juggernauts finished at the bottom of the table, winning just two out of twenty matches.

Turning the tide around this season, the Bhubaneswar-based club made some quality signings on and off the pitch. Having recently acquired the Spanish coach, Francisco Kiko Ramirez González, the Odisha squad is working hard under his tutelage for a change in fortunes this time around.

Ahead of the upcoming Hero ISL 21-22 season, indiansuperleague.com caught up with Ramirez for an exclusive interview.

Ramirez has managerial experience in various Spanish leagues, managing several second-tier and third-tier sides. He has also made his mark in the Polish premier division, managing Wisla Krakow.

Speaking on his decision to come to Odisha FC, he said, “Most importantly, it was the project with DV7 group - a youth football academy in Spain - that brought me here. It’s a good opportunity for me to coach in a country like India and I want to accomplish my targets. The staff and management have made a good decision on coming here.”

“We’re very focused on our work. Although I’d like the bio-bubble to be a little lenient to enjoy things in India. It’d be beneficial to everyone in the bio-bubble in ISL,” Ramirez added on his experience in India so far.

Odisha FC had a busy transfer window with the arrivals of foreign players namely Jonathas de Jesus, Aridai Cabrera, Hector Rodas amongst others. Ramirez expressed his view on the new signings, saying the key to success was finding the right balance in the squad.

“Even though they are players with good individual aspects, it doesn’t imply that they can give us the title. The key to having a successful campaign this season is finding the right chemistry by mixing the strength of Indian and foreign players and creating the best team possible,” he said.

“A lot of players are important because every game, seven Indian players are going to play, so they have to fulfill their roles. In the long run, seven Indian players are more important than the foreign players. Together, they will make a great team,” he added.

Odisha FC kick-started their pre-season camp during early September in Goa, while also playing a few pre-season friendlies. They have an impressive youth line-up with youngsters like Vinit Rai, who has shown a massive sign of leadership on the pitch. Rai, 23, is one of their captains for the upcoming season alongside Hector Rodas and Victor Mongil. Ramirez said he was placing a lot of trust in young players for the season.

“The players and I were together only for a brief time in the pre-season. I was surprised to know the level of Indian players, they were good,” he explained.

“They [the players] knocked it off for the team and they are players to count on for the season ahead. But now they have to be stiff with their training and work without any fear and be prepared to face anything in the competition. I believe that they’re ready to do that.”

After an upsetting finish last season for the Juggernauts, Ramirez reassured the fans of building a quality and competitive team for the upcoming season.

“I won’t speak about the past, now we’re in the present. We have to think of a good future for ourselves. I’m in a strong position to know that the players are good together. We’re preparing for the tough moments ahead and we’re also planning on where to arrive in the future. We’re making a team to compete, compete, and compete.”

The Kalinga Warriors will open their Hero ISL 2021-22 campaign against Bengaluru FC on the 24th of November at the Tilak Maidan stadium and Ramirez would be hoping to get them off to a winning start.

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