Sweat. Tears. Joy. Happiness. 

The EMS Corporation stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala echoed these four elements as Odisha FC made history after winning their first-ever silverware after beating Bengaluru FC 2-1 in the Hero Super Cup final on Tuesday.

Braving a hard-fought playoff finish in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season, the Juggernauts' joy was short-lived as they bowed out of the league after a 2-0 loss to ATK Mohun Bagan in the knockout tie. Furthermore, the club parted ways with head coach Josep Gombau after the culmination of the Hero ISL season.

However, Clifford Miranda – who joined the club as an assistant coach ahead of the 2022-23 season from FC Goa – stepped up to take charge of the team for the Hero Super Cup. 

Under his stewardship, Odisha FC managed to top Group B while being unbeaten alongside the likes of Hyderabad FC, East Bengal FC, and I-League side Aizawl FC. After getting past NorthEast United FC in a comeback victory in the semi-finals, it was the ultimate test of strength for his men as they faced a Bengaluru FC side that made their way to the third final of the season, which they passed with flying colours.

“I am so happy, I can’t begin to describe the feeling. This is the first trophy for the club, and I hope there will be many more to come. This club deserves this trophy, the amount of work that has gone into building this team, every step of the way, makes this moment all the more special,” Miranda told the-aiff.com in a post-match interview.

The celebrations were twofold as Miranda etched his name into history books, becoming the first Indian head coach to win the Hero Super Cup. Being modest in his character, the 40-year-old accredited his players’ contributions in lifting the silverware.

“This victory is all down to the players, it would not have been possible without them. The way they responded to the tactics was simply fantastic. They just did everything that we asked of them. Even in the final, where we asked them to change the way they play, with just one day of training, it was just amazing how they responded and came up with the goods,” Miranda said.

Having hung up his boots in 2017, the former Dempo SC player instantly switched sides to coaching, as he took the reins of the FC Goa Reserves side that won the Goa Professional League under him thereafter. The Hero Super Cup being his first-ever senior trophy holds a special place in his heart.

“I had won the Goa league with the FC Goa reserves, which was my first trophy as a coach, but this win is the first for me at the national level, and I can’t describe how happy I am. It’s a wonderful moment, for the club, its fans, the players and staff, for myself and my family,” he added.

The road leads further ahead for the Juggernauts as they prepare for action against former I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC in the Hero Club Playoffs for a spot in the group stage of the AFC 2023-24 Cup. Miranda believes it will be a massive achievement for the club to represent the nation. 

“It’s a brilliant prospect for this club. We have to win one more match and we can play in Asia, which will be brilliant for everyone. It would mean a lot for everyone associated with the club to be able to compete at that level,” he stated.

While Indian coaches haven’t made it large in the modern era of the country’s footballing fraternity, Miranda lays emphasis on how his achievement should be seen as a stepping stone for other Indian coaches.

“I hope this increases the belief that club owners have in Indian coaches. Having said that, I also think that as Indian coaches, the onus is upon us to get better, and to work harder. It is one thing to say that we are not given opportunities, but we must be able to convince the club owners and the decision makers that we are capable of doing good things,” Miranda commented.

“We will only start getting these chances when the owners see that we are capable, and for that, we need to do more than what we are doing presently. There are examples of foreign coaches that have come in, who are maybe not quite at the same level as the Indian coaches, but are able to convince the owners that they are the right people to take the team forward. So, it is up to us to work twice as hard as every other coach out there, and to convince the club owners and officials that we are the ones that deserve the opportunities,” he added.

“We also need to be technically very well informed. It’s not just the owners that you need to convince, it’s the players too. They are very well informed these days, and they do ask questions about what could work and what could not – both Indian and foreign players. We should be able to direct them, to guide them in a proper manner,” he concluded.