The duo spoke about the importance of tomorrow’s game and challenges going into the season.

The Indian Super League (ISL) is all set to raise the curtains for its eight edition on the western shores of the country in Goa. And after a blockbuster of a contest between Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan in the opener, the focus will shift to the second matchday between Bengaluru FC and NorthEast United. Ahead of the clash, the ISL’s first Indian head coach Khalid Jamil and his assistant Alison Kharsyntiew addressed the media on behalf of the Highlanders:

Here’s what they had to say:

Challenges going into season

Khalid Jamil becomes the first Indian coach to take over the reins of an ISL club on a permanent basis. Going into tomorrow’s game in what will be the start of an historic campaign for the Highlanders, Jamil spoke about the challenges ahead.

“We’re playing a good team tomorrow, they’ve quality players. It is a big challenge to not take this match lightly, to focus and think positively,” he opined.

Thoughts on Saturday’s game

NorthEast United have never managed to pull off an upset against the Blues during the league stage fixtures. In eight matches, they’ve drawn and lost four each. The tactician said that he’s not thinking about the past and is focused on tomorrow’s game.

“We don’t think about the past, we’re thinking about tomorrow. And we have to be focused from the first minute to the end to give our best and everything will be fine. We must work hard and believe in ourselves,” he replied.

Kharsyntiew also shared his thoughts on the game tomorrow and said that results will follow their way if they keep working hard. “Bengaluru FC are a good team. We all have to go there and give our best, be focused and show character. If we give our best, success will come,” said the assistant coach.

Watch: NEUFC coach Khalid Jamil and BFC coach Marco Pezzaiuoli address the media

Captains this season

Jamil also informed about the players who’re going to lead his side on the pitch. “We’ve four captains this season. Subhasish (Roy Chowdhury), (Federico) Gallego, Khassa (Camara) and Hernan (Santana),” he revealed.

Expectations from upcoming season

NorthEast United defied all odds and made it to the playoffs last season. Khalid Jamil knows that the expectations are much higher this season. And he banked on the importance of a good start to get their campaign up and running.

“Firstly, we know the expectations is high from us this season and we have to do well. Secondly, we’re only thinking about tomorrow’s game against Bengaluru. Tomorrow, we need to have a good start because a good start would be good for us. We have to prepared, defensively and attack-wise and we must play as a team to help each other,” he opined.

Prior experience of fielding just four foreign players in I-league

Khalid Jamil is the only head coach in the ISL this season who has the experience of playing with seven Indians and four foreigners during his I-League days. When asked if this will give him an edge over other coaches, he said, “No, it is the past and we don’t think about past. Talking about the present year, all the teams are on a good level. They’ve quality Indian and foreign players. We’ve to be prepared and think about our own game, especially this game,” He added.

Thoughts on replacements

After a historic run to the semis, NorthEast lost out on a few players who switched sides. However, they’ve roped in new faces and Khalid believes that the players can achieve everything if they work hard.

“They’ve to work hard because then they can get whatever they want. And talking about quality, there’s no difference between any player who’s doing good. If they work hard, they’ll get the results,” he said.

Advice to upcoming generation of coaches

Khalid Jamil not only saved NorthEast United’s sinking ship, but also steered them to a top three finish last season. Today’s football pundits and experts across India consider Jamil’s success as a sign moving forward for the development of Indian football. The tactician firstly thanked the players for last season’s success and shared a word of advice for the upcoming generation of coaches.

“First of all, whatever we achieved last year was all because of the players. And talking about advice, I want to tell that keep working hard and believe in yourself.”

Update on Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha

NorthEast’s Mizoram born prodigy Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha sustained an injury during training, which might rule him out of the season. Speaking about his injury, the tactician said his availability will depend on the latest MRI scan.

“We have to take one more MRI scan and he is fine. After taking one more MRI scan, we will decide,” Said Jamil.

Kharsyntiew’s comments

Assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew shared an update on their squad going into the first fixture of the season. “No injury and everyone’s fit and okay for tomorrow.”

The pressure and importance to start well is immense on every team. Alison also spoke about the importance of the first fixture and how results can follow their way.

“The first game is always a challenge for every team. But, we just need to go out there with confidence and be prepared for everything. The main thing is to work as a team and give your best throughout the 90 minutes. The result will come if we work hard and play as a team,” he concluded.

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