The Italian spoke ahead of his sude’s first home game against Delhi Dynamos…

Marco Materazzi hopes to secure on Thursday Chennaiyin Football Club’s first victory of the season at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium by handing Gianluca Zambrotta-led Delhi Dynamos a defeat in their Indian Super League opener.

The Super Machans struggled against Atletico de Kolkata and were lucky to salvage point at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium last Sunday. However, their manager alleged that they were under no pressure to perform and denied putting any pressure upon his personnel.

“We have to divide between passion and obsession,” suggested the Chennaiyin gaffer. “We don’t have the pressure, and we don’t have the obsession because we already won last year. It’s a pleasure to defend the title. I’m not putting any pressure on my players. I’m really happy with what they’ve been doing so far.”

The Chennaiyin manager, who lifted the World Cup with his Dynamos counterpart Gianluca Zambrotta in 2006, opined that managing in the ISL would help his compatriot grow as a manager. However, he subtly warned him, stating he would wish him the best only after Dynamos’ opener.

“I know him as a player and not as a manager,” said Materazzi. “I’m really happy to see him in India, where he gets the chance do well as a manager. I wish him the best. He should try becoming champions but only after tomorrow, because we want to be champions again.”

The 43-year-old undermined discipline on the pitch before the start of the campaign and saw his teenage full-back Jerry Lalrinzuala concede a penalty in the dying minutes against Kolkata. Despite admitting that they needed to learn from their mistakes, he defended the AIFF Elite Academy product, stating it was natural for a player of his age to make mistakes.

“I’ve to make my excuses to the referee here. I said his penalty call was wrong in the previous press conference but, looking at it again, it was the right call,” admitted the former World Cup winner. “Jerry’s inexperience played its part. At 18, you need to commit those fouls because, otherwise, only 30-year-old players will play. We have to learn from those mistakes and be more cautious. If Jerry learns that, he’s ready to play the whole tournament.”

Since Dana [Dhanachandra Singh] was injured, I had to make changes. We had tough opponents, who gave a tough time to Mohanraj and Jerry. I may make mistakes, but I always look to play my best players.”

ISL has often come under scrutiny for exploiting the craze for football in the country whilst doing little to nothing to promote the growth of the sport. He appeared to mirror the common notion, as he sounded critical of ISL’s regulations; he suggested that the competition should promote the development of young players.

“Indian players are very important, but the only regret is that whom I call kids – according to rules and regulations – cannot play,” said the manager. “I could bring Jerry in only because Daniel has commitments with his team (Bengaluru Football Club). I have two more good players in Anirudh and Prosenjit.

The ISL regulations should change. If you don’t give young players the chance to play and grow, Indian football will only grow slowly. You have to give them opportunities to help the movement – the football movement in India.”

Chennai did not make the shortlist for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, with Kochi, New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Navi Mumbai, and Margao all hosting the tournament. However, the Machans gaffer seems impressed with the infrastructure and facilities.

“I cannot judge them because we faced many difficulties in the first season,” said Materazzi. “We didn’t have a training pitch and were training at a University. From the second season on, we have had our own training pitch. It’s the best pitch I could ever ask for. It’s perfect. I want to thank the Government and the club. Now, we have all we want to do perfect training sessions.”

Lead Picture – ISL Media