Habas: Have a special connection to Kolkata and ATK
Following two Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) titles in the first three years, ATK massively disappointed in the next two seasons, finishing in the lower half of the table on each of those occasions. The characteristic zip and passion about their game had been somewhat lacking to say the least, with the club scoring just 18 goals in as many Hero ISL 2018-19 fixtures.
Ahead of the coming season, however, the club more than addressed that aspect, as former title-winning boss, Antonio Lopez Habas was appointed at the helm, while a host of global names were signed to further accelerate the process. The Spaniard was the man who led the club to their first Hero ISL title, and has substantial experience of managing top-quality sides.
Speaking at a media interaction, Habas was asked his opinion on the difference between the current ATK side and the one he previously managed in 2014. He answered, “Football is different from one season to another. The players are different now. It is impossible in football to compare one team with another. For me, my team now is the best.”
The 62-year-old then, proudly confessed the special affection he has for the city of Kolkata and ATK. “I think my last time here is in the past. I have a special connection with the Kolkata city and ATK. For that, I am here. I have the maximum respect for the supporters, the fans and the club.”
Furthermore, Habas steered clear of recognizing any team as the strongest, while also provided a broader explanation of his tactics. “I don’t know. It is very difficult now before the start of the competition to share opinion about this (the strongest team).”
He added, “It’s a process (my tactics), of trying to organize the defensive line, and after that you have to transition to attack. At first, it’s about defence, transition and after that defence attack. After 45 days, we had trained in both. I always tell that the magic word in football is ‘ball’. This is the magic word. You have to do both things well. This is the balance for me.”
Summer signing, David Williams was also one of the attendees at the media interaction. The Australian arrived at the club quickly after the arrival of former Wellington Phoenix teammate, Roy Krishna, leading to a lot of excitement amongst ATK fans regarding their potential partnership. Speaking on what part Krishna played on his move to the Kolkata-based club, the 31-year-old said, “It’s hard to say because I don’t know the conversations with the club before I signed and vice versa.”
“But we had some idea and we are very good friends as well. So, even in Wellington, we would speak our futures. But we both are here, which is fantastic for the club and for us as a partnership. We know each other well on and off the pitch. I think that can give us both success as individuals, but our success is not as important as the team's success.”
He added: “The foreign players can really drive our team. The young players will all follow. They look up to Roy especially because of what he did last season at Wellington. I didn’t score as many goals as he did, but we worked well together. And this is the combination I feel the club wanted to keep together. We’re both happy with our performances last year and we are at a very good stage in our career. We are still fresh and top of our game, and we decided to come to India.”
Finally, the ATK striker also gave a glimpse of what fans can expect from the two-time champions in the coming season. “With ATK, you will get goals. We have some great players, not just foreign players. We have some very good, talented Indian players, who when they get their chance, they can show what they can do. Goals is what we have in training. I promise you will see lot of goals from ATK this season.”