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Sergio Lobera arguably best to have coached in India, opines Odisha FC President Raj Athwal

Published at :January 28, 2024 at 1:22 PM
Modified at :February 1, 2024 at 10:45 AM
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Gourav Samal

Athwal also went all praise about the club’s womens team.

The arrival of Odisha FC in Bhubaneswar has fulfilled the long-held dream of fans in the area to experience the excitement of football on a regular basis and finally have a club to call their own. Over the years, the club has done an exceptional job of winning over more supporters and asserting its presence in the state, leaving an indelible mark that is sure to endure for years to come.

We were fortunate enough to engage in a conversation with the Club’s President Raj Athwal, who is currently on a visit to Bhubaneswar to witness his team’s outstanding performance in the final of the Kalinga Super Cup against East Bengal FC on January 28, 2024 at the Kalinga Stadium.

Clinical performance by Odisha FC’s men and women team

Odisha FC’s men’s team is in the process of making history this season, as they continue an undefeated streak of 15 matches. This remarkable run began with a victory over Bengaluru FC in the ISL match on October 31, 2023. Since then, they have not only performed exceptionally in their matches, but have also secured a place in the next round of the AFC Cup and have reached the final of the Kalinga Super Cup 2024.

The women’s team is excelling as well, currently leading the points table in the Indian Women’s league (IWL) 2023-24 with sixteen points from six games.

“First of all we are into the final again in this season and are right now experiencing a 15-match unbeaten streak. We’re also in the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup, the only club to represent India at the level”, the club’s president while addressing the performance of the men’s team.

We’re one of the very few clubs that has a professional women’s team. And I’m pleased to say that our women’s team is also on the top of the table, he added. 

The introduction of Sergio Lobera

Odisha FC made a game-changing decision in May 2023 by appointing Sergio Lobera as its head coach. This strategic move propelled the club to unprecedented success, as they have consistently proven themselves by triumphing over every challenge they’ve faced in this short phase.

“For me, Sergio Lobera is arguably the best coach that’s ever coached in India. He’s won pretty much everything. We also have some of the best players in the team right now. Overseas players like Jahouh, Fall, Roy, Diego and Indian players like Isak, Puitea and Amey, who’s probably the best right back in India at this moment, want to play for Sergio because of his motivational skills, his leadership skills and the way he brings the players together”, Raj while appreciating the team’s coach and emphasizing the positive impact his presence has had on the players.

Odisha leading towards a football hub

It’s well known that Odisha has long been a center for hockey and has produced exceptional players for India. With the founding of Odisha FC, football fans have discovered a new passion for the sport and have consistently turned out in large numbers to support the team during matches at the stadium.

Raj responded positively when asked about the establishment of football culture in Odisha. He said, “It’s going to take time. Yes, hockey is a big sport and there’s no problem with that, but there’s also space for football, there’s space for other sports also.”  

“We’re trying to establish the club, not just for this season but for the future. The more successful we become, the more people from Odisha, the kids, the boys and the girls will start supporting us”, he added.

The support of Odisha Govt.

Undoubtedly, Odisha has emerged as a thriving sports hub in recent times, receiving significant support from the government. The state’s sporting culture is experiencing a remarkable upsurge in all aspects. 

“The Odisha government has been very supportive. Without them we couldn’t operate as successfully as we do today. Here, we have the best stadiums and the best training ground facilities in the country. This will help us to grow the game from the grassroots, all the way through to the senior teams and also with the female players”, Raj Athwal while expressing his appreciation for the government’s efforts in establishing the club in Bhubaneswar.

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