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Don't want to be favourite in the final, says Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Habas

Published at :May 3, 2024 at 2:43 PM
Modified at :May 3, 2024 at 2:43 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Uttiyo Sarkar


Antonio Habas also outlined the differences between winning the ISL Shield and the ISL Trophy.

Mohun Bagan are aiming to clinch their domestic treble as they face Mumbai City in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 final at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Saturday (May 4). The Mariners have the chance to not only win their second ISL Trophy, but also retain the title they had won in the 2022-23 campaign.

Antonio Habas on the final and his ISL record

Antonio Habas will be managing his fourth ISL final, having won two out of the previous three so far. Speaking about his feelings ahead of this game, he said in the pre-match press conference: “It’s one more commitment for my staff and players. Congratulations to the fans, because without them, it wouldn’t have been possible to get into the final. I want to win tomorrow. We need to have more ambition to win this title another time.”

When asked about his positive record in the ISL and winning two trophies, the Spaniard replied: “Evidently, in the ISL history, yes. But for me, the stats are irrelevant. We are in a good feeling, but our idea is to win the trophy tomorrow. It’s good to remember the history, but we have to continue and we also must remember that we lost a final to Mumbai in the past. Tomorrow, we have to complete the circle and complete the target of the season. When I first joined the team, I told my players that we know what we need to win the league and the trophy and the players are aware of this.

“I will always push for one thing, which is to complete the circle. We can only complete this by winning the last match. We have the opportunity to do so tomorrow, and evidently the idea to complete the circle is the most important thing,” he added.

Revenge over Mumbai and first ISL final in Kolkata

When questioned about the aspect of getting revenge over Mumbai City after losing in the ISL final in 2021, he stated: ‘No revenge for me. Revenge is in the feelings of Mafia and that kind of people. It’s one more match against a good team and maybe it’s an attractive match for the ISL to have this kind of a final. I’m very happy to play this final and we must compete from the first minute.”

The mentor was also pleased to play the final in Kolkata for the first time, saying: “I remember playing another final in Mumbai and another in Goa. But it’s different now; it’s in our house. We have our supporters with us and that is important.”

‘Favourites’ tag and Habas’ journey in Indian football

The Spaniard also refuted labels of being a ‘favourite’ to win the match, as he said: “There are no favourites in a final. I don’t want to be favourite in a final. All matches are different and one move in the first minute can change the history of the match. We have to be concentrated. For me, it’s tough to choose one team as the favourite in the final. We have the advantage in regards to the massive supporters, but the supporters don’t play on the pitch.”

Antonio Habas is also pleased with his success in Indian football over the last decade, as he explained: “It’s a good time for me because I have managed the Bolivia national team, then managed in La Liga and then in South Africa and then the last 10 years I’ve managed in India. I’m very happy and proud with my management in India. This is the last phase of my managerial career and these are the last moments in my coaching career. I’m very happy with the staff, with the players and with everyone. I’m very pleased to train in India, be it the fantastic attitude of whoever I’ve managed or the commitment that I’ve seen.”

State of Mohun Bagan-Mumbai clash and potential extra-time threat

The tactician also rubbished claims that the Mohun Bagan vs Mumbai City match is similar to an El Clasico, answering: “We are two strong teams in the ISL but in the last season Mumbai won a lot. We have to respect the rest of the teams, be it Bengaluru FC, Odisha or Kerala Blasters. You can get a good organization and good players, and you have the possibility to go far forward. It all depends on commitment on a regular basis. I don’t think it’s fair to compare to Real Madrid or Barcelona and that is not good.”

When asked about the match potentially going into extra-time and how he’d feel about that, Habas replied: “A coach never wants a game to go to extra-time, because after such intense training, matches and hot temperatures, it becomes very difficult for the players. We are ready for extra-time and penalties if it’s necessary.”

Challenges as Mohun Bagan coach and mental threat

Speaking about the challenges he faced to take the Mariners to the ISL final, Antonio Habas answered: “Only one word for me, which is hard work and respect for the players. It’s about giving equality in terms of the players’ qualities in the team. We only had to organize and convince the players to get the success.”

The maestro feels that the final will be one of mental fortitude too, as he explained: “Evidently, we don’t have another solution for this last battle. We have to try to play well, and win. There are no more options. Playing well is the idea for the match. I can’t explain anything tactical today, but it’s more about psychological aspects and a match that will depend on the mental state too.”

How different will final be to the last game?

The Spaniard also refused to compare this game to the last match between Mohun Bagan against Mumbai City. He stated: “The two are different matches. There are no similarities between the match in the regular league and one in the final. They have an opportunity to defeat us to win this, but we also have one to defeat them again and win the trophy. No two matches are similar, all matches are totally different. The parameters from one thing to another one have similar characteristics, we have to take care of the small data. We have to keep concentration from the first to the final minute of the match.”

Difference in winning ISL trophy and shield

Finally, when questioned on how different winning the ISL Trophy can be as compared to the Shield, Antonio Habas replied: “There are different aspects to this. It’s more difficult to win the Shield, because it’s a regular league with more opponents to play. The more special trophy is the regular league and the cup after that. It’s a different format, different systems. This is the final match and we have another opportunity to win the final. In the league, we had the chance to recover points – but there is no chance of recovering points in this final match.”

Subhasish Bose comments

Mohun Bagan captain Subhasish Bose is excited at the prospect of completing the domestic treble. He stated: “We give our best to win every single trophy. I’ve seen how hard this squad has worked over the last eight months, in terms of the players’ dedication and giving their own. Winning this trophy is very important and it’ll be a dream for us to win the treble this season. We can write a new chapter on our illustrious history with the treble.”

The captain also issued his desire to bring another trophy home by stating: “We started the season with the target to win the ISL Shield and the Trophy. We’ve won the Shield and have one match remaining for the Trophy. As a player, I always look forward to win the match and if we can win matches, we can win trophies. I want to bring another trophy home to Mohun Bagan.”

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