Josep Gombau: Playing in front of home fans in Bhubaneswar a big deal

After playing six away matches and three home ties from their temporary base at Pune, Odisha FC will be finally playing their first match at their designated home ground – the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar – when they face off against Jamshedpur FC in Match 47 of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 on Friday. Currently with just nine points from as many matches, Odisha are four points off the top four and will be hoping to make the most out of their three back-to-back matches in Bhubaneswar to give themselves a fighting chance of making it into the semifinals.

At the pre-match press conference, Odisha head coach Josep Gombau expressed his delight at finally being able to play on their home turf and outlined the significance of the next three matches. “For sure, we still have a chance of making the top four. We may have played nine matches, but technically all of them were away. We are excited to finally play at our home (at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar). We now have three games here and all three are very important for us. Depending on what happens in these three, we will either have a chance to make the top four or not. We are working very hard and the boys are excited. I think if we can get the results from these three games, we will have a good chance. But we need to continue working hard,” he said.

“For us, it’s a big deal to play at home in front of the fans who will come to support us. Of course, we still have a chance. Jamshedpur, who are fourth, have just four points more than us and if we win against them, we will be just one point behind them. There are a lot of games remaining and we can get there,” the Spaniard reiterated.

Issuing a rallying cry of sorts for the fans in Bhubaneswar, Gombau added, “We are expecting a nice crowd. We hope fans come and support us in numbers. We want to provide them some good football, so that they keep coming back to support us. We will fight for every ball, give everything. That’s what we want to do. I want to ask the fans to come and support us.”

Time and again this season, Odisha have dropped points due to conceding late in games. Asked if the trend was a concern, he replied, “I think we have a lot of games like that but we have also managed to come back in a few games ourselves. Every game is different. The players work very hard. But we also have to consider that having a home support is crucial in these tight situations and we haven’t had that so far.”

Defender Shubham Sarangi has been the breakaway star at Odisha this season, putting in some stunning displays. Expressing his views about the youngster’s rise to stardom, Gombau stated, “Shubham is a young player. We, as a club, try to develop young players. That’s our identity. Shubham is doing well, he always wants to learn and improve. He deserves what he is achieving. I hope one day he becomes one of the best sidebacks in India and gets into the national team.”

“Every single game we are playing with five players who are under 23. Arshdeep Singh is doing well and so is Gaurav Bora, Jerry Mawihmingthanga and others. I am happy with all the youngsters. If they keep working like this they have a big future,” he further added heaping praise on the team’s young players.

Accompanying the gaffer at the briefing was Bora, who quite recently made his Hero ISL debut under Gombau. “I just want to stick to the coach’s plans and implement what he tells me to do. That’s all I can do. We are trying to do our best. We want to do well in our first match in Bhubaneswar and give the fans something to cheer about,” he said.

Read the Match Preview here.

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