The Hyderabad FC owner spoke about the club’s player recruitment, youth activities and more.
The 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League (ISL) was a mixed bag of positives and negatives, as clubs enjoyed moments of hope as well as disappointment. While Mumbai City took home the League Winners’ Shield and the title, clubs like Odisha FC and Kerala Blasters disappointed. However, in the midst of all this were Hyderabad FC. Finishing bottom in ISL 2019-20, very few hopes were pinned on Varun Tripuraneni and his team ahead of last season. However, they fought valiantly till the end and wrapped up the campaign just outside the playoffs spot.
Khel Now recently caught up with Varun, who is the owner of Hyderabad FC. In an exclusive interaction with us, he spoke on a host of topics including player recruitment, situation during the 2020-21 season and future plans. Read Part 1 of the interview here:
Reviewing the club’s recruitment
Varun Tripuraneni said that he is largely happy with Hyderabad FC’s recruitment model, explaining in detail how the Nizams identify and sign players.
“With regards to every club, I think there are a few components that you should pay close attention to. You have the first-team and there’s also the reserve team, youth teams and academies. Right now, I’m very happy with how things have happened as far as the first-team is concerned,” he began.
“I’ll explain with the help of some examples. Sujay Sharma came on board as the club’s Director of Football in December 2019. The reason why I wanted him to join then, was the fact that the winter transfer window was opening in a couple of weeks’ time. There were a few changes that we had to make in our squad and we also had about six games remaining at that point. If you look at those signings that we did then, you’ll understand that not only did they make us better for the remainder of the season, but they also made our job easier the following summer.
“We signed Souvik Chakraborty from Mumbai City. Liston Colaco was also not getting enough game-time at FC Goa – the fact that we signed him on a two-year deal, that too as a free transfer sounds incredible right now. Hitesh Sharma, again was not playing much – he trained with Odisha FC for two months, but didn’t sign a contract with them,” Varun went on.
“If you look at these three players, they not only played an important role in the remaining games, but they also turned out to be crucial the following season. Of course, we eventually ended up selling Liston – but obviously, from a business point of view, it encourages us and tells us that it’s the model to follow.
“In the summer window, we signed players like Chinglensana Singh who recently represented India. We always knew we had good, young talents like Asish Rai and (Mohammed) Yasir, but with the help of Sujay and the rest of them, we were able to sign more starlets like Akash Mishra and goalkeeper Lalbiakhlua Jongte. Rohit Danu again, is an amazing talent who will get more game-time now that Liston has gone. Overall, I think from the first-team point of view, we have done extremely well,” he explained.
Meeting targets for ISL 2020-21
Varun Tripuraneni also revealed that Hyderabad FC’s aim for the 2020-21 season was to at least challenge for the playoffs spots, for as long as possible.
“If you remember, we were last in ISL 2019-20 and it’s never realistic for any one to set a target of becoming champions in the season that follows immediately. We knew we had a good, competitive team that would take time to improve and so that target was to remain in contention for the playoffs till our final league stage game,” he said.
“And we did exactly that. Things went down to the wire – we took it to the last minute of the last game,” he recollected. The Nizams needed a win in their final league stage match against Goa to progress to the playoffs. They came close to scoring just before the final whistle, but the Gaurs forced a draw and broke the hearts of their opponents.
Work done on reserve and youth teams
While Tripuraneni is content with the work done by the club on their first-team, he admitted that he cannot say the same about their second-string sides or youth teams.
“In the context of our work with our ISL squad and the results that it gave us, it has been a pretty satisfying season. However, with the reserves and youth teams, it’s been a start-stop kind of process since early 2020,” he said. “COVID-19 has been affecting our progress regularly. As you know, we were conducting trials in and around Hyderabad, Northeast India and so on just before the second wave. But, now, everything has gone quiet again.
“That is, infact the only place where we’ve sort of lacked behind. Because, in terms of the academy, we have made good progress and I’m really confident that we’ll arrange facilities for it in the next couple of months. Nothing is official yet, but we are in talks with a couple of institutions and trying to figure out how we can partner with them on this.
“Things may not start functioning soon, but at least we’ll lay the foundation before the 2021-22 season,” Varun Tripuraneni concluded.