The Tamil Nadu-based side are on the back on an excellent campaign.

With the 2018-19 I-League title in their trophy cabinet, Chennai City will be hoping to start off the upcoming football season with a bang! With a good run in the Super Cup, losing to eventual champions FC Goa in the semi-finals, the club will be aiming to keep its star players. Many of them have obviously fallen under the radar of other cash-strapped clubs.

The Coimbatore-based outfit will be playing in the upcoming I-League season, and will be hoping to have another fantastic campaign.

Khel Now interviewed the man behind Chennai City’s recent success, Akbar Nawas. He spoke about his team, their I-League victory and Super Cup campaign, transfer window, and much more.

Q1. The 2018-19 season was fantastic for Chennai City. What are your thoughts regarding the team’s showing?

It was a great feat to achieve our desired outcome by having a strong belief in our playing philosophy throughout the season. It was a satisfying achievement.

Q2. How was the team before you arrived, and what did you need to change in the team to make it into a title challenger?

The team was raw however they were ready to learn and absorb as much as they possibly could tactically.

We changed the players’ style of play to adopt a new approach to training and positional play. Like keeping possession of the ball and defending from the front, was taught to make them competitive.

Q3. In the Super Cup, Chennai beat Bengaluru but lost to Goa in the semi-finals. What was there to learn from the Super Cup?

Beating the ISL champions Bengaluru asserted our stature as the “Champion of Indian Football”, however at the same time we were given a good footballing lesson by Goa. That goes only to show we have much to improve and learn in football even though we were champions.

Q4. How did you imbibe the Spanish style of play in your squad? Who has been the most important foreigner in your team, and also the most important Indian?

It was difficult at the start to enforce my football philosophy but we persisted and worked on it during training. I would say, all the foreign contingent and locals, contributed immensely and were equally important.

Q5. After the 2018-19 season, your key players – domestic and foreign – are being courted by clubs, both in the I-League and ISL. What is your stance on player sales this summer?

I have sought to keep all the players for continuity and our management is on the same page.

Players that have left are those players who wanted to leave and, therefore, we can’t keep a player who does not want to play for us.


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Q6. Earlier Khel Now had revealed that Romario Jesuraj had allegedly negotiated with an ISL outfit without informing his parent club. What do you have to say about that, and has it happened with other players too?

I’ve let my management to handle this but I’ve advised my players to be professional, and to discuss matters with the management if such an approach arises.

Q7. Due to the current unsure scenario regarding I-League, what have your foreign players said? Do they want to leave? What is your stance on it?

Yes, it’s uncertain. But my owner has assured us that I-League will still be the top league in India next season, as the next season’s champion of I-league will qualify for AFC Champions League. The players have kept their faith in the club and owner on this.

Q8. Do you think there is a huge gap between I-League and ISL clubs? Which league is better and more competitive according to you?

Both are competitive and it’s for all to see that there are no gaps from the performances of last year and this year’s Super Cup.

Q9. What are your expectations about the upcoming season? What are the areas in which you are looking to strengthen and how concerned are you about further potential departures?

We look to improve in our style of play and obviously to look towards winning one game at a time and see where that takes us at the end of the season. We will start from zero as being champions is the past. We have to work twice as hard, focus twice as hard, train twice as hard, run twice as hard, learn twice as hard, and compete twice as hard as every team would want to beat us.

I sincerely hope for no more departures, and if it happens we have to deal with it and keep on scouting for talents.

Q10. A message for your and Chennai City fans in India.

Next season we need more support as it will be tough, the question is can every fan now rally behind us and propel us to keep wanting to win for them as well.