Hyderabad FC’s rise to the mantle of excellence has been nothing short of spectacular, right from the club finding their feet in the league to being crowned as the champions of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season under the guidance of head coach Manuel Marquez.

Thanks to Marquez’s meticulous tactics and planning, the club thrived across his two seasons in-charge and also developed a core group of Indian players and brought to fore an artillery of youth prospects such as Rohit Danu, Akash Mishra, among others alongside experienced and veteran foreign players in Bartholomew Ogbeche and Joao Victor.

With fans getting to witness the footballing action back in the stands in the season that lies ahead, an opportunity beckons for the four-year old club to forge a profound relationship with them after playing the last two seasons in a bio-bubble.

Hyderabad FC co-owner Varun Tripuraneni highlighted his journey of building Hyderabad FC, the highs and lows of the club, and shared his insights on a longer season in Indian football on the LFL Twitter Space podcast with Hero ISL experts Anant Tyagi, Paul Masefield, and Khuri Irani Khan.

Listen to the full LFL Twitter Space podcast below:   

On the club’s growth and excellence over the past three seasons

Varun Tripuraneni: We had to sort of move on from the first season. Our head coach Manuel Marquez has been the most important part of our club in the last two years. It was important to learn from our mistakes in year one and then build on from there. In the middle of the Hero ISL 2019-20 season, we knew we were going to be in the bottom three in the league and we started looking forward from there on.

Going forward, the signings we made, the planning that we went through for six-seven months, figuring out what direction the club needs to take. We approached it in a very systematic manner, not just the signings of first team players but also the technical team, the support staff and everyone else at the club.

On the switch from the role at Kerala Blasters FC to building Hyderabad FC

Varun Tripuraneni: I was extremely happy with Kerala Blasters FC. The sort of reason I moved out was because I had to do something of my own. I completed five years in the Hero ISL and was looking to explore something else and then Hyderabad actually happened. Winning the title with Hyderabad FC was more of a relief than anything else because we started quite badly in the 2019-20 season and then the season later we couldn’t make the play-offs. So, it was more of satisfaction and relief than celebration when we lifted the trophy.

On Hyderabad FC’s youth setup and core group of Indian players:

Khuri Irani: All the young signings did brilliantly well and it paid off. So, it was a success from the business end as well as the player loyalties. When Adil Khan was injured in Hyderabad FC’s first season with Manuel Marquez, he got Sana [Chinglensana Singh] as his replacement as the centre-back and he was splendid. When Adil came back from injury, Marquez had no reason to replace Sana with Adil in spite of there being a more senior, experienced player because he did the job brilliantly of what was asked of him. And that’s what I like about Manuel, the consistency the club has shown throughout his time here.

On reuniting with the fans after two years

Varun Tripuraneni: In the 2019-20 season, we didn’t have the time to do any sort of marketing or promotional activity to actually get the fans to the stadium. We had 40 days before the season started and our focus was entirely on getting the infrastructure at the stadium right. So, it’s going to be a great opportunity to play in front of the fans again. Our fanbase is organically building through us winning the Hero ISL last season.

There are a couple of activities we are focusing on, one of them is the grassroots initiative, we’re trying to reach out to as many schools as possible. In the pre-season, we’ve got a whole lot of grassroots leagues, right from baby leagues to school leagues. We’re also launching our corporate initiative in the next three to four weeks to get into that sector. We’re also coming up with another season of Future is Us [docu-series on Hyderabad FC] with a proper marketing plan in place.

On a longer Indian football calendar

Varun Tripuraneni: We’ve got a pretty good calendar for Indian football as head forward. Firstly, in terms of planning, it is much more important to plan things right from pre-season because the Durand Cup is in the middle of the pre-season. From the players’ point of view, it just gives them more and more opportunities to perform and prove themselves. And collectively, everyone in the football ecosystem, all the team owners, all clubs feel that it is important to have a longer season and more number of matches.

From the club’s point of view, I think it’s an exciting time as well because all the while we’ve been planning just a pre-season with some practise games, but in the Durand Cup, we’ll be playing at venues which are different from Hero ISL venues, so it’s a great opportunity for us to be playing in these newer venues, it’s an opportunity for us to sort of create a new fanbase there.