JFC were League winners last season, but now a season starts: OFC head coach Josep Gombau
Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau believes that his team have a felicitous challenge ahead of them in their Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season opener as they take the field against former league champions Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, in Jamshedpur, on Tuesday.
Gombau felt that Tuesday’s game will be a lot better as players will play in front of a packed stadium after a long break while also heaping praise on the travelling fans heading to Jamshedpur.
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After a solid outing in the pre-season as the Juggernauts reached their Durand Cup semi-final, Gombau is hopeful of his team being competitive and is looking forward to his players growing through the longer season as they will get more playing time.
The 46-year-old addressed the media in an official pre-match press conference ahead of his side’s battle against Jamshedpur FC.
Here are the excerpts from his press conference:
You will play away against Jamshedpur FC - who were the Hero ISL League Shield winners last season - and your team hasn’t won at the JRD Tata Sports Complex. So, are you under any kind of pressure?
For us, the challenge is to play here on Tuesday as we are facing a very good team. They were the league winners last season, but tomorrow, a new (season of the) league starts. We have prepared very well for the new season, and we’re excited to be here. It's a nice place to be at which will be full of people tomorrow, and we think this is a good challenge for the new season, and we hope for a good start as we have a very good team.
Were there any kind of injuries to the players during the pre-season? Is the full team available against Jamshedpur FC?
No, we are all fine. Almost all the players are available except for Michael Soosairaj who got injured during our (friendly) game last Friday. We had a good pre-season, we played the Durand Cup and it was a very good tournament for us as it allowed us to play five competitive games. I feel the team arrived in a good condition after a decent pre-season, and we had time to prepare everything. The team needs to be competitive and we can’t wait for tomorrow when we kick-off against Jamshedpur FC.
The fans return to the stadiums after a period of two years. How excited are you for them?
I think it will be a very good experience for all of them. Every single player in this world wants to play with the fans (supporting the team) as they are an important part of football, especially here as the people are respectful. Tomorrow will be a very nice day for all the players because they will feel the support from the fans again and I think it’s good for both teams. This feeling of playing in front of the fans is much better than to play in an empty stadium.
Last season was really impressive for Jamshedpur FC. So are you feeling any kind of pressure to play your first game of the season against them at their home ground?
No, I think it is good for us. Even if we’re playing away, the people here respect their opponents and I think it is very good to have this feeling and play in front of the fans. And this is what everyone likes, from the players to the coaches, to play for the people and make them enjoy (the game). All of us are happy that the fans are here and we need to play well to make them come back to the stadium again. I hope we can give a hard time for the local fans and we can win the game.
This season will be a longer one than before and there’s a change in the playoffs format too. So, how have you prepared for these two changes and how will it impact Odisha FC’s season?
For sure, a long season is good news. Players getting more gametime on the field is better for everybody. Now, we are coming into 9-10 months of competition and training which is the normal way around other countries. The more games the players get to play, the better it is for them, and I think it is good for everybody. The new format of the league, the Durand Cup, the Super Cup is a better development from the (All India Football) Federation.
I also think the foreign players will enjoy more as they will get additional months of football because they are getting to do what they like and they want to be with the team.