The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season is special in many regards. In addition to being the 10th season of the competition, this edition of the tournament also marks the first time a club secured promotion to the ISL with I-League Champions Punjab FC.

Whilst their initial run in the top-tier was riddled with adjustments and close encounters, they have produced promising performances in the second half of the campaign and are very much in the race for playoffs this season and Head Coach Staikos Vergetis is surely looking forward to it. Punjab FC has won thrice in their last five games, including successive 3-1 wins against Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC. Their latest defeat was a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Mumbai City FC, a game where they led the Islanders for a large portion of the match.

Coach Staikos Vergetis talks about their promotion, ISL and the young Indian players. Watch and download the video here: https://we.tl/t-gdmDe0z6mN

“Will never forget the I-League win”

 

He suggested that the entire ecosystem at Punjab FC has developed a nice synergy and coordination over the last two years. The players understand the needs of the support staff and it works vice-versa as well, helping them pack a punch above their weight more often than not. He fondly recollected on their time back in the I-League, where he underwent a wave of emotions both as a human as well as a coach before some key matches that sealed their promotion to the ISL.

“As a human being, I had so many moments, emotions, and powerful moments that we lived through last year. It’s not only the celebration and fiesta. It’s the emotions in the dressing room, the emotions before big games, team spirit, and it’s all one family, and nobody can break the family. I work very well with the players, and my players work very well with the staff. The staff keep the team united and it keeps the spirit fantastic. As a coach, I show the improvement of my team. We improve our players individually, and the team collectively. The I-League win was one championship in my coaching career that I will never forget,” Vergetis explained.

“ISL forms a power base for the success of the national team”

 

Punjab FC has a host of domestic players at their disposal with impressive potential. The likes of Melroy Melwin Assisi, Suresh Meitei, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Leon Augustine, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, amongst others, have played the perfect foil complementing the strengths of their seasoned international counterparts. From a broader perspective, Vergetis has been impressed with the promise present across the ranks of multiple clubs, saying that it lays the foundation of the performances of the national team too.

“The first division of the championship in any country is the step that any player needs to take to progress to the national team. The Indian Super League in all factors is helping this step become more stable and make every player more confident. The Indian national team will have great success in the future, because the base, i.e. the ISL, helps create a power base for the national team to take the step up,” Vergetis said.

“Indian players are disciplined and diligent”

 

The 47-year-old Greek tactician joined the Punjab FC setup in 2022, and won them the I-League in his first season with the club. He explained that it took him some time to get acquainted with the mentality and perspective of Indian youngsters. Vergetis appreciated their keenness to learn, absorb ideas taught by the coach, and execute the same on the pitch to earn applause and laurels off the ground. Further, he explained that Indian players grow in belief when results start favouring them, which is what has become evident in the last couple of months in the ISL.

“I believe 100% that Indian players are very good receivers of information. They are very disciplined boys, who understand and do things that make you happy. This gives a lot of motivation and emotion. The youngsters want to learn a lot and they give their best to make their coach happy and improve themselves. By Christmas in my first season, the players were full of confidence because they saw that the results were coming. It is what I dream to see for Indian football, to see better results for the national team and also for clubs when they compete against their foreign counterparts,” Vergetis said.

Regardless of how the rest of the season pans out, Vergetis has done an admirably good job at the helm of Punjab FC. To give heavyweights like Bengaluru FC, Mumbai City FC, and Kerala Blasters FC amongst others a run for their money in their debut year in the top-tier is surely no mean feat. With five matches remaining, they are just four points behind (17) and the sixth-placed Bengaluru FC (21), having a game in hand (17) as compared to the Blues (18). Thus, they still have an outside chance of qualifying to the playoffs, with Vergetis & Co. placing their single-minded focus towards the same.

Punjab FC plays its next match in Guwahati, tomorrow, March 07 at 7:30 p.m. against playoffs rivals NorthEast United FC.

Where to Watch

Fans across the country can catch the action in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Malayalam. Fans can watch the action on linear channels like Sports18 Khel (Hindi), Sports18 1 HD (English), Sports18 3 SD (English, Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali), VH1 SD & HD (English), Surya Movies (Malayalam), News 18 Kerala (Malayalam – select matches) & DD Bangla (Bengali). Fans can also catch the action streaming Live for free on JioCinema, the home of Indian football. In addition to this, as part of FSDL’s partnership with OneFootball, ISL live streams and highlights of all matches of the upcoming 2023-24 season will be delivered across more than 190 countries.