As the start to the 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) campaign edges closer, teams have begun their preparations in full force, with the upcoming season set to begin on November 20. Strict COVID-19 protocols have been put in place to ensure that all players and staff need to undergo a specified period in quarantine before stepping onto the grass for training.
With the upcoming season now a little over three weeks away, all 11 Hero ISL clubs are building towards match fitness ahead of their respective opening fixtures. Considering most players have had a long lay-off and time away from football due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the work that they put in during pre-season to find match sharpness will be crucial as they look to hit the ground running.
Hyderabad FC kickstart preparations under head coach Manolo Marquez
Hyderabad FC’s new head coach Manolo Marquez took charge of his first training session on Tuesday after the club’s Indian players squared off against Kerala Blasters FC in a pre-season game over the weekend. Apart from the staff, Manolo was also joined by the foreign players from Hyderabad’s squad – Joel Chianese, Joao Victor, Lluis Sastre, Odei Onaindia, Fran Sandaza and Aridane Santana.
“Getting back to training felt really good. We spent a long time away from our passion and we spoke about the same with the staff before the start of the training session. I think everyone who loves football would enjoy getting back on to the field,” Manolo said after the session.
Rahul KP bags brace in pre-season friendly, Kibu Vicuna backed for success
Kerala Blasters FC began their pre-season on a strong note, registering a 2-0 win over Hyderabad FC on Sunday with Rahul KP scoring a brace in the victory. It marked a good start to new head coach Kibu Vicuna’s time at the club and Kerala’s Sporting Director Karolis Skinkys backed the Spaniard for success, while confirming that the Blasters will play three more friendlies before the season begins.
“Of all the decisions I have taken, appointing Kibu Vicuna was the one I was most sure about. I know the feedback from his previous clubs, he has already adapted to India. I am very happy we finally reached an agreement and now we’re working together. We still have time, we will play three more friendly games,” Skinkys said.
FC Goa begin preparations ahead of hectic 2020-21 season
The Gaurs kicked off their pre-season preparations on Monday as the club looks forward to a hectic 2020-21 campaign. As holders of the Hero ISL League Winners Shield, Goa will be participating in the 2021 AFC Champions League group stage as well and their head coach Juan Ferrando has been keeping a close eye on some of the teams that Goa could face in Asia’s premier continental club competition.
“I have been watching loads of Asian football matches, not just Indian football but also teams from Iran, Qatar, and other west Asian countries – all teams we can face over the next AFC Champions League,” Ferrando said.
After being busy in the transfer window of late, Mumbai begin preparations
Hero ISL 2020-21 will see Mumbai City FC begin life under head coach Sergio Lobera as he looks to bring his brand of expansive and entertaining football to the Islanders squad. The club have been extremely active in the transfer market over the last couple of weeks, roping in several star players in Ahmed Jahouh, Hugo Boumous, Mandar Rao Dessai and Mourtada Fall.
The upcoming campaign also marks the Islanders’ first full season under the ownership of the City Football Group, who acquired a majority stake in the club in November 2019. The team began their pre-season training on Wednesday and are expecting a couple of their foreign players to arrive in Goa this week.
SC East Bengal lay groundwork for Hero ISL bow
The upcoming season is set to be bigger than ever before, with the addition of Indian football giants SC East Bengal to the league. The club arrived in Goa on October 16 and even though their players might have less time to get in shape ahead of the new season when compared to their rivals, their head coach Robbie Fowler is confident about his team rising to the challenge.
“We know we can do it. It is a challenge we have accepted, and it is a challenge we want to do really well. It is about doing the preparation right, methods and ethics into the player and we will be doing that. We can’t wait to get started,” the Englishman said.