We’re here to compete, not have fun: Juan Pedro Benali
Yash Pratap Singh
NorthEast United boss Juan Pedro Benali also spoke about the infrastructural improvement in Indian football.
NorthEast United FC will begin their Indian Super League (ISL) campaign with a high-voltage clash against the defending league shield winners Mumbai City FC. The Highlanders will host the Islanders to get their new season underway.
Both teams came into the league on the back of a good 2023 Durand Cup campaign. Ahead of the game, NorthEast United’s head coach Juan Pedro Benali and Gaurav Bora addressed the media. Let us hear from them:
Thoughts heading into the game
The head coach opened up about his thoughts ahead of his side’s opening game. He said that the team is mentally ready and it will be an interesting game tomorrow.
“It’s the first game of the ISL against a very strong team. They are one of the best teams in the league. Everybody is mentally ready for the game. It will be an interesting game, but it won’t be easy,” he asserted.
Preparations ahead of the game
The Highlanders have a relatively new squad with a lot of fresh faces. Speaking about his side’s preparations going into the first game, Juan Pedro Benali said that all the players know their responsibilities and are ready for the game.
“We have been working together for the last two months and slowly the team has come together. They know their responsibilities. We are at 70% of our potential and the team needs time, but the time has arrived to play. We are here to compete and not have fun. We hope we are ready for it,” he quipped.
Sharing an update on the availability of his players, Juan said, “At the moment we don’t have any injury issues.”
Importance of starting well
The head coach also spoke about the importance of starting well and described it to be a ‘dream’ for every professional to start well.
“It is the dream of every professional to start well. It is very important to get a result against a team like Mumbai City FC. It will be a big day and the result will put us with more hunger for the rest of the games,” he said.
Message to the fans
Sharing a message to the fans, Benali said that the fans are ‘Number 1’ for them and all the players will give their best in their honour.
“We say that the fans are the 12th man. But for us, our supporters are number 1. They are pushing us in a good way and we need to honour them. Any player that goes on the field will give his 1000% for the people who are supporting us. The fans should be proud of us when they leave the stadium irrespective of whether we win or not,” he added.
Footballing infrastructure in India
Juan Pedro Benali was asked about the footballing infrastructure in India as he has played in a lot of stadiums. He said, “The stadiums that we have played in are fantastic. We played in Kolkata, Bengaluru, Jamshedpur. I went to Pune to see Mumbai City FC’s Champions League game. I was surprised because at first I thought it was worst, but it is going in the right direction.”
Gaurav Bora’s comments
Mood among the players
Gaurav Bora said that the mood in the camp is good and the players are looking forward to the first game.
“The mood is good. We have tasted victory and we want to taste again. We feel good about it. But of course, it won’t be easy for us and we are looking forward to it.”
He further added that all the players are leaders in the team and support him very well.
“I don’t feel the pressure because everyone in this team is a leader and everyone supports me really well.”
Message to the fans
Bora signed off by sharing a message to the Highlanders’ faithful and said, “We just want to give something back to them. It’s been a very long time. They can come and enjoy the games. We want to win the cup and we’ll take it step by step. And tomorrow will be the first step.”