Varun Tripuraneni: Success of Hyderabad FC will depend on how well we build the youth development project
Hyderabad FC co-owner Varun Tripuraneni is full of enthusiasm and buoyancy following the team’s successful campaign (fifth-place finish) in the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). The Telangana-based club, only in its second season in India’s premier football league, fought tooth and nail before missing out on the semi-finals by a whisker. Having done so well in such a short time with a new team, Tripuraneni is understandably a happy man.
“We went into the season on the back of a very poor season in 2019-20. There was a lot of pressure on players, support staff, and everyone involved in the club. There was a transition from one coach to another, but we stuck to what we wanted to achieve. We knew we couldn't end up as champion considering the previous season we had and we didn't have any such expectations.
“We're very happy we achieved what we set off to do at the beginning of the season. The circumstances were tough for everyone and the fact the Hero ISL was pulled off in the manner which it was, I think credit has to be given to everyone involved in the league. It was a good season for us overall and I would say it was a bit of a relief towards the end that we could turn things around,” he told sportstar.thehindu.com in an interview.
In the season gone by, Hyderabad FC caught the eye particularly for showing faith in local players and at the end of it had names like Akash Mishra, Chinglensana Singh, Liston Colaco, Mohammed Yasir and many others to boast of. The quartet even went on to debut for India after their eye-catching performances in the 2020-21 Hero ISL.
When asked if giving opportunities to local talents was part of some kind of plan heading into the season, Tripuraneni said: “We knew we had talented players who weren't tested too much in Hero ISL, like Liston and Hitesh [Sharma] for example. They didn't play too much football for their respective teams previously. We also had seasoned players like Adil Khan, Subrata Paul and Halicharan Narzary come in. The balance was going to be very important -- the right mix of Indians, foreigners and young inexperienced players.
“I would say the positives from the 19-20 season was that players like Mohammed Yasir, and Asish Rai got a lot of game time. It could be because of injuries to some key players that season but I think playing more games gave them that extra bit of confidence that they required and they were completely different players in the 20-21 season. We wanted to build a good core of young Indian players.”
Tripuraneni also shed light on his ambition of setting up a youth academy in Hyderabad so as to provide youngsters a top-notch platform to hone their skills. “We’ve seen in last season that we've done well with a good young team. We would continue with that philosophy and that's going to be the key. We would like to bring in players through our ranks. Right now, we can't say these are players who've come through our system because we don't have a strong foundation as yet. As I said, we’ve not even completed two years since we've joined the league.
“Results do matter and the key would be to be as consistent as possible. We have seen with some of the established clubs, who focus on youth, that they don’t necessarily win titles every year but they are consistent. I think that's how we would like to be going forward. We may not necessarily be in a position where we will sign the most expensive players or the bigger names.
“We hope to have a decent youth set-up in place by the end of the upcoming season. I think the success of Hyderabad FC will depend on how well we build the youth development project. It’s one of the ways we could stand out or be different from other clubs. I'm not saying other clubs are not focusing on it, but I think our focus should be on youth development. I believe that that is the right approach for our club specifically,” he said.
Finally, Tripuraneni spoke of his plans for the upcoming season. “We will have a competitive squad. We have had two players go out in Liston [to ATK Mohun Bagan] and Sahil Panwar [Odisha FC] recently. We will focus on strengthening the Indian core and we know the areas we need to work on.
“Off the pitch, I am hoping to see more activities from the club. We are eager to launch and roll out our grassroots and academy plan. Our on-field performance and off-the-field activities should complement each other and it will be a successful season. I’m hoping that we go one or two steps forward this season,” he said.