It has been a long and arduous road for the Nizams, one that is fit for being an inspirational tale.

Hyderabad FC’s meteoric rise in the Indian Super League is not an overnight change in fortunes. Before reaching the ISL final for the 2021-22 season, the club took several steps in the right direction. From finishing bottom in the league standings in their inaugural season to almost securing the ISL League Winners’ Shield and qualifying for the playoffs, the outfit have come a long way. 

Often termed as the neutral’s favourites, HFC have established themselves as a major football power. From making the right appointments to trusting the Indian talents, the Nizams are an example in themselves. The club receives a lot of praise for developing young Indian players who have been crucial in their recent success. 

The club can make further history by winning the ISL title with Kerala Blasters in their way. Spirits will be high before the iconic final, however, this is the perfect opportunity to look back at the secret to Hyderabad FC’s success. Here is a look at what makes this club unique and in what ways they have created a space for themselves in a highly-competitive ISL:

Moving to Hyderabad

The club’s inception, post FC Pune City’s departure from the ISL, remains an important chapter in their history. The new ownership changed base to Hyderabad and it was the start of a project which is tasting success today. Co-owners Vijay Madduri, Varun Tripuraneni and Rana Daggubati have been a breath of fresh air.

A football club automatically gets on the road to success when it has a competent ownership. The football-centric approach to HFC’s operations has been the difference-maker. The work behind the scenes is clearly reaping rewards today.

Appointment of Albert Roca

Phil Brown’s stint with Hyderabad FC was one to forget, as the club headed for a bottom-place finish in the 2019-20 season. The club appointed former Bengaluru FC head coach Albert Roca as the replacement. However, the experienced tactician parted ways with the Nizams to join Ronald Koeman at FC Barcelona as the fitness coach.

Having said that, Roca’s work behind the scenes was key. He setup a foundation for Manolo Marquez, who came in as the next head coach. The Spaniard’s work, identifying players, charting a roadmap for the club and more was significant for the club’s success in the past two seasons. 

Signing proven ISL foreigners

Bartholomew Ogbeche has scored 18 goals in the 2021/22 season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

A defining feature in Hyderabad FC’s road to success has been their approach in the transfer market. Identifying the ideal foreigners who would bring experience and won’t take time to settle into their new surroundings was extremely smart. Juanan had won three trophies including the ISL with Bengaluru FC, Edu Garcia won the ISL with ATK and Khassa Camara was essential in NorthEast United’s impressive season in 2020-21. 

However, it is safe to say that signing Bartholomew Ogbeche had the biggest impact. The Nigerian joined the Nizams after winning the ISL Shield and Trophy with Mumbai City. He had previous experience in the ISL after his stints with NEUFC and KBFC. He has scored 18 goals (personal best) in the current campaign.

Trusting core of young Indian players

A major factor in Hyderabad FC’s rise is the role of domestic players. The management took the step of trusting its core of young, adventurous and brave Indian players. The likes of Akash Mishra, Chinglensana Singh, Asish Rai, Hitesh Sharma, Yasir Mohammad, Rohit Danu, Aniket Jadhav and more have been vital to their march into the final.

Thanks to their consistent performances for the Nizams, the defensive trio of Mishra, Singh and Rai became regulars in the Indian national team. There was a point when the Indian national team had more than five players from HFC alone. 

The calming presence of Manolo Marquez

Manolo Marquez
Manuel Marquez has led Hyderabad FC to their first ever final in ISL 2021/22 (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Every ship needs a captain to brave the largest waves and in Hyderabad’s case, that figure is Manolo Marquez. He deserves massive credit for marshalling the troops, trusting the Indian players and guiding them to success. Finishing fifth in his debut season was a major achievement. However, the management gave him a well-deserved extension and that decision is working wonders.

His calming presence is the secret behind HFC’s dominance in both defence and attack. Marquez’s approach, playing attractive football, being brave with tactics and being smart in team selection – all have worked in helping HFC reach where they are today, creating history by securing playoffs qualification for the first time. The head coach has emerged as one of the most competent tacticians in Indian football. 

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