Can’t afford to lose our concentration against Bengaluru FC: Odisha FC’s Kiko Ramirez

Odisha FC coach Kiko Ramirez underlined his team’s chemistry as a vital element for his team’s success against Bengaluru FC. Ramirez’s men face the Blues in their opening fixture of the Hero Indian Super League 2021-22 season on November 24 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco da Gama, Goa.

Ramirez is the newest managerial entrant in the Hero ISL, marking his debut with the Bhubaneshwar-based side this season. The Juggernauts had a satisfactory pre-season under the Spaniard, a pivotal factor ahead of the new season under a new head coach.

Odisha FC have faced Chhetri and Co. eight times in the ISL, losing five and winning two, but under new head coach Ramirez’s philosophy, the Juggernauts would be hoping to improve the record.

Ahead of their battle against Bengaluru FC, Odisha FC head coach Kiko Ramirez and assistant coach Kino Sanchez, and captain Hector Rodas spoke to the media during a pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

This is the first time in the Indian Super League. How prepared are you and the team, and what do you think will be the biggest challenge Bengaluru will pose in the game?

Kiko: We are prepared for the ISL. Our pre-season was good as we trained in a well-planned manner for the competition. It’s going to be a difficult game against Bengaluru as they won their first game. They have quality attackers; they play good football and have proven themselves in the ISL. We know it’s going to be a tough one, but we are ready.

Bengaluru is a physical team who look to play possession-based football. They had a passing accuracy of 81% in their first game. Is there any specific way to counter this threat?

Kiko: Of course, the team has to give 100% concentration in the game, not make any mistakes. We know that they have quality attackers, so we have to stay focused from the beginning and implement what we have practised in the week.

After last season, the squad had a major overhaul with the incoming of new foreign players. How significant was the pre-season in terms of bonding for the foreign and Indian players?

Kiko: Being together for the long pre-season was extremely important for nurturing the bond between the foreign players, the Indian players, and the staff. Within the time that we spent together, we are in a good place being together. Now we feel that the squad is effective in team building too.

In the first few games, it was found that the managers were struggling a bit to find a balance with only four foreign players on the pitch instead of five last year. Do you think it will be a problem for you? How are you looking to work this balance?

Kiko: I will put four of my most competitive foreign players on the pitch to put up a competitive side. The four foreign players are important, but the seven Indian players are more important as they are going to play every match. So, our focus is also on the Indian players whom we aim to develop in this season.

Odisha FC are one of the youngest squads in the Hero ISL. How important is it to motivate these young players alongside experienced foreign players?

Kiko: One of the best advantages of having these young players is that we don’t need to motivate them, they are motivated every day. Sometimes they are too motivated, and we need to calm them down because we want them to learn that they are with experienced players. They can learn the tactical aspects and technical behaviour in the training sessions and matches with them, so that is also an added advantage because we can’t make sure that they develop in the way we want them to.

Here are the excerpts from the player’s press conference:

Considering you [Hector] as one of the leaders of this team, what will be your role for the squad, and how will you motivate them?

Hector: Of course, I will show them my values as a player, not just in training but also through my behaviour. We need high-performance football, and for that, every player should have a hunger for each game and should be motivated to stay at the top level.

There are three captains this year for the team? How are you going to manage the leadership role within yourselves and how do you think it will help the team?

Hector: Although they have chosen me, Vinit, and Victor as captains, all players in the team must act as leaders. They must have a good attitude and show professionalism during the season. And of course, everyone in the squad will convey such values to the young players and follow an aligned path to achieve our objectives.

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