Will focus on our football morals: ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Habas ahead of Kerala Blasters game

ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Habas said his team will play their own game against Kerala Blasters in the opening match of the Hero ISL 2021-22 season but will go into the field with nothing but respect for their opponents at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa.

ATK Mohun Bagan will look to maintain their winning record against the Blasters, having defeated them twice last season.

Their opponents are a revamped unit and Habas’ men will have to bring their A game to the table if they are to start the season with all three points.

In his second managerial season with ATKMB, Habas will look to go one step further this season after his team lost in the final to Mumbai City FC last year.

Here are the excerpts from the official pre-match press conference ahead of the Kerala Blasters game:

You're going to play against Kerala Blasters, a team consisting of some young and talented footballers. How are you planning to play against them?

We absolutely respect the opponent in this case and last season, the season before that, and the season before that, we had to play the fixtures against Kerala. We don't have a lot of information about their quality because the deck he has, they have a new coach, new players but we have to analyse it to the individual profile of the players he has. But at all times, my morals in football are more important i.e. 85%, 80% for my team to perform its job and the rest 20% is my respect for the opponent.

You stress on maintaining balance while playing with four foreigners allowed in the playing 11. How do you plan to maintain balance while choosing your foreign players?

The same players play for us and win the matches, now there are new rules for the foreign players and we have to adapt to the situation because we have 6 foreign players with a high possibility to play. Don't worry, they are prepared and it’s the same for us [staff]. I have only one question: Is it better to reduce one foreign player? They play here because they are of high quality; because you know it's not possible for a player with no quality to play at ISL.

With playmaker Hugo Boumous in your team, could we expect to see a more aggressive approach from your team this season?

Hugo Boumous is no different player for me, he’s the same as William, same as Pritam, he has a good characteristic as a player but outside [on the pitch], they are all trying to improve their quality to know their individual proportion.

Which would you say is the key factor in your team?

The key factor I think is that we have to build a team with an idea to grow as a group. There is the quality, the energy for winning. Obviously, we have to show our quality on the pitch too and it also depends on the players you have. Every season you have to adapt one proportion of football, sometimes more offensive, sometimes more defensive or mix, because you have to have the cold heart as a coach to analyse the player you have and after that you take a decision about what their behaviour is.

Although your team was clinical through ISL last season, on some occasions especially in big matches towards the end of the season your defence looked vulnerable, usually from attacks from wings you conceded goals and suffered setbacks. It's a new season and so how are you going to resolve this problem?

It depends on the players that go half or attack more or attack less because I was right there. I know they have to determine an option in defence. You have 90 minutes; you have different matches that differentiate when you need those three points badly where you have to move quickly. The idea is that when the team has the ball, you attack. When the team doesn't have the ball, you defend but this is the compromise. It is the magic war in the transition of defence to attack. I don't understand how it determines when you play the same way all the time. Even Real Madrid and Barcelona don’t play the same game all the time. I don’t know any team at a lower level that plays the same game all the time.

Since 2014, when you first came to India, how have things changed for Indian football?

The ISL is a good opportunity for Indian football. Every season more Indian players level with the foreign players. I think that the trajectory to the ISL is fantastic for Indian football, we have to respect that. In my opinion, you have to improve the football in the academies, which is the number one role. An academy needs to be professional and that’s where you begin with.

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