Habas: Kolkata derby will only enhance the attraction of the Hero ISL

Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) will stage its first ever Kolkata derby following the inclusion of East Bengal FC and the merger of ATK Mohun Bagan FC ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. While discussing the significance of the fixture in an interview with goal.com, ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Antonio Lopez Habas was of the opinion that the Kolkata derby will only enhance the fast-growing reputation of the Hero ISL.

“I am aware of the history that is involved with the Kolkata derby. I also know that this match is important not only in West Bengal but the entire country. But this match is just another league match for me. The derby is equally important as all other fixtures. But right now, I am not thinking about the derby. We will think about it when we will have to play it. But I would like to say that the Kolkata derby will only enhance the attraction of ISL,” Habas opined.

READ: Jhingan: Wanted to be part of ATK Mohun Bagan FC's long-term project

The rivalry between the two clubs makes the fixture one of the most highly anticipated games for Indian football fans and even though the Kolkata derby won’t feature any spectators this season due to COVID-19 restrictions, Habas isn’t prepared to accept any excuses if his players don’t perform.

“It is true that without spectators any (league) loses its sheen. But in the current situation, nobody can help it. It's better to play in an empty stadium rather than not playing at all. And players cannot perform without crowd support are excuses. They must take the pitch with more motivation and positivity,” the Spaniard said.

ATK Mohun Bagan have built a strong squad ahead of the seventh edition of the Hero ISL, with the additions of Manvir Singh, Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri. Among the foreign contingent, Roy Krishna, David Williams, Javier Hernandez and Carl McHugh have been signed from the ATK FC championship winning team. They have also roped in Bradden Inman from the A-League while a majority of ATK’s defence from last season have been offered multi-year contracts at the club.

While looking ahead to the new season, the 63-year-old revealed that he has been in constant contact with his squad and cannot wait to link up with the team having landed in India a few days back. “It is good that we have most of our players here in Goa. Our physical trainer has chalked out tailor-made individual fitness plans for each player. But there are quite a few key players like Roy Krishna and David Williams who are yet to join us. Hopefully, they will arrive soon," Habas shared.

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