Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez is all revved up and can’t wait for the 2021-22 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season to begin. Under Marquez, the Telangana-based team, largely banking on the quality of their domestic talents, narrowly missed out on the 2020-21 Hero ISL semi-finals as they finished fifth on the points table in what was a huge improvement on their bottom-place finish in the previous season. 

“It was a pity we missed out on the top-4 after getting so close but most of my family and friends enjoyed every bit of the season. There was an app that telecast the Hero ISL games in Spain and it was popular among many I know. Most of them also know the names of the players now and cannot wait for the next season to get underway,” Marquez told hyderabadfc.co.in in an interview from Spain.

The 52-year-old, whose contract was extended by two years in February earlier this year, also spoke of the Indian national team in glowing terms for their good show in their remaining three matches of the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha earlier this month. “I watched the games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of the Indian youngsters. The game against Qatar was also a real test. India’s aim was to finish as high as possible in the group and I believe that the 3rd place finish was pretty well deserved,” he said.

Marquez believes that the long ‘post-season’ break has both its advantages and disadvantages. “…I believe that the off-season for the Hero ISL is a bit too long, which is not ideal for the players. But it gives us time to spend with family and friends and also for an occasional movie. The Euros and Copa America have also kept us busy.

“I have been in contact with the owners, staff, the players and the fans of Hyderabad FC, as we all begin our preparations for the new season,” he said.

Marquez also picked his favourites in the ongoing competitions in Europe and South America. “In the Euros, Italy and Belgium are two teams that have impressed me. I love to watch them in action but I believe that Didier Deschamps’ French national team are the firm favourites to go all the way. In Copa America, Brazil and Argentina could fight for the trophy.

“But in both competitions, there are plenty of strong and determined teams and that has made it all, a more exciting watch,” he said.

Finally, he shared what the Covid-19 situation was like in Spain before reiterating how eager he was to return to India to start preparations with Hyderabad FC. “Life is almost back to normal here in Spain, mainly because most people are vaccinated and I think that is the key for most countries. When it comes to vacations, Menorca in the Balearic Islands is what I consider a paradise, where I can disconnect from the world.

“I would love to visit that place soon but a part of me wants to be back in India to start our preparations for the next season, which is just as exciting,” he said.