Habas extols his 'magnificent' players

Habas extols his 'magnificent' players

Atlético de Kolkata’s head coach Antonio Lopez Habas praised his team for believing in themselves and showered compliments on his support staff as he reflected on a title clinching win at the DY Patil Sports Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Saturday night. After becoming the first winner of the inaugural Hero Indian Super League (ISL), Habas was quick to acknowledge the contributions of his entire unit. “I must thank my players for they have been magnificent. I cannot ask them for anything more, for they have given me the ultimate gift. I must thank my entire support staff, for without them, I would not have been able to function. The owners have been fantastic and have supported us through thick and thin. This title is for the fans as they have been our strength,” Habas said at the post-match press conference.

The Spanish gaffer also chose to acknowledge his captain Luis García’s contributions while also reserving some special words for the match-winner Mohammed Rafique.  “Luis has been phenomenal. He is our marquee man and has shown his qualities not only on the field, but by influencing all the younger players in the team. He is a real leader and has had a huge influence on the Indian lads. I am so happy for Rafique because he did not play a lot in this competition, but when he got his chance today, he created history. He truly grabbed his opportunity with both hands.“

Habas also stated that he was thrilled with his experience in the ISL and that winning the title will now be an unforgettable moment in his career, “I have coached a lot of teams and I have had several moments to cherish and look back upon. But this journey has been something different. It has been an unforgettable experience,” the former Bolivian national coach declared.

Kolkata’s marquee player García, who could barely speak after having screamed his lungs out in celebration, lauded the fact that it was an Indian player who decided the fate of the competition. “I think it is marvellous that Rafique got the winning goal. It is fantastic that an Indian player settled the contest. I regard the Indian boys highly and according to me, the right infrastructure and guidance will make them brilliant in the near future. I was disappointed not to play today as every player wants to play in a huge final like this, but I am delighted that we are the champions. That is what matters in the end,” he said.

Man-of-the-moment, Rafique, whose header deep in stoppage time sealed the deal for Atlético de Kolkata, was obviously elated over his feat. “I cannot describe what I am feeling in words. I would like to thank my coach, who had faith in me. It was he who decided to bring me on and what happened next was surreal. People dream of scoring in a final and I am very fortunate that I got to experience that in the flesh. I would like to dedicate the ISL title to all our fans who have been splendid right throughout the tournament. Dada (Sourav Ganguly) told me that I had created history. It is yet to sink in for me,” he confessed.

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