Rai excited about Ogbeche, Garcia signings, believes reaching semis in 2021-22 is paramount for Hyderabad FC

Hyderabad FC defender Asish Rai believes the team under Manuel Marquez have gained massive ground on top teams in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) and will be looking to reach their maiden semi-final in the upcoming edition – to begin with.

The Telangana-based team recently got a massive shot in the arm with the signings of Bartholomew Ogbeche -- Hero ISL champions with Mumbai City FC in 2020-21 -- and Edu Garcia, Hero ISL champion with ATK FC in 2019-20. No wonder Rai is excited as regards the possibilities for his team in 2021-22.

“They are very good and experienced players. Of course, they’ve been here for a few years and understand the nature of the game here. I think they will fit in very easily with our gameplay and therefore the team will become stronger moving ahead,” he told Khelnow.

“We have a really good team that is well-settled now and we will be looking to first make it to the semis this season. We want to play the big teams and make it to the semis this season and that is the first aim for us,” he added.

The 22-year-old is all praise for head coach Marquez who he believes has completely transformed the side, having lifted them to a fifth-place finish last season from 10th in 2019-20. “I really enjoy working with him. He always teaches you new things and understands the players inside out. He knows how to develop and improve any player. His decision making is also spot on,” he said.  

The right-back featured in 18 matches in the 2020-21 Hero ISL and besides performing his defensive duties to a tee, he also provided two assists which speaks volumes for his resourcefulness on the pitch. He provides insights into his role.

“As a right-back, you need to understand the game and understand what the coach requires from you. Whatever the coach desires, you have to play according to it. You need to have a good understanding with your winger and the centre-back. It requires communication and the better you communicate, the better the advantage for you at either end,” he said.

“The last season was my best one so far [the 2019-20 season was his first in the Hero ISL]. We were one of the best teams in the league. What was great was the way we bonded, not just on the pitch but off it as well.

“There was a feeling of family in the team. It really helped my performances as well. The way the players treated me, be it Indians or foreigners, youngsters or seniors – everyone was treated very well and we all enjoyed playing with each other.”

His partnership with Akash Mishra at the back caught everyone’s attention last season. Rai speaks of his team-mate in glowing terms. “I know Akash since my time at Indian Arrows. We were there in the same team but didn’t use to speak a lot with each other.

“But here, we got to know each other well. I see how I can perform better than him by learning from his game and he does similarly. We always look to push each other to improve ourselves and the team,” he said.

 

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