Back in July, Chennaiyin FC fans buzzed in happiness when they got to know who their new head coach was. The reason was evident – the records he holds from his previous coaching tenure! Who? – The Montenegrin Bozidar Bandovic!
Bandovic comes in with the experience of coaching in Greece, Azerbaijan and Thailand.
“What he has achieved in Thailand is a testament to his capabilities, and we expect him to show similar efficiency in India,” were the words of club co-owner Vita Dani when Bandovic was announced.
Bandovic’s most recent stint, at Buriram United in Thai League, boasts of successive league titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and also Bandovic bagged the award of ‘Thai League Manager of the Year‘ in 2017-18. His consecutive championship-winning seasons saw the club establish and then break its record for most points secured in Thai League history.
Buriram United’s 2017-18 league winning campaign was furthered by its progression into the round-of-16 in the AFC Champions League, a semifinal finish in the Thai League Cup and an appearance in the final of the Thai FA Cup.
Recently, Bozidar touched down at Goa with most other foreign players and is currently undergoing a quarantine period.
Bandovic knows well what Chennaiyin FC has achieved in the past. As the 2021-22 Indian Super League season will start in November, he believes it’s the right time to start the pre-season.
“As a coach, I don’t agree with long pre-season. I think eight weeks are enough to make them run for 90 minutes and be refreshed at the same time. We start the work every day on a zoom call. We will start the training from September 26,” Bandovic said in an online interaction on Tuesday.
“I spoke to the club about 6 or 7 friendly games. We need to see which teams are free and when will it be good for them and us to play friendly matches,” he added.
Last season under Csaba Laszlo, Chennaiyin FC won only three, drew eleven, and lost six. What surprised the fans was the scoring chances that were created and only a few goals scored.
“I cannot speak about the last season as I was not there. I believe these players can score goals, but what we want to do is to do teamwork to create chances, and of course, they have the quality and ability to score goals,” the head coach said. “For me, it’s not important who will score the goals. It’s important that the team wins and to score more goals than the opponent and I believe this will be better this year.“
Speaking about the foreign contingent, Rafael Crivellaro was retained as he recovered from his injury while the club signed five other foreigners on demand of Bandovic. Also, Chennaiyin FC made some Indian additions as well to boost the squad.
“I believe we have a good balance of youth and experience, and of course we have some domestic players who are at a good level and played for the national team; I believe we have a good team, and now we have to work hard.
“The foreigners need to make a difference immediately on the field. We will make a good group. They will have a positive influence on the domestic players – training and communication. The domestic players will improve. They are leaders and have character.
“We need to create a coordination between the players and let them play in their preferred position so that they can give their best for the team,” said the 52-year old.
Jobby Justin, Ninthoi Meetei, Salam Rajan Singh, Deepak Devrani, Narayan Das were some promising names who signed for Chennaiyin FC.
Also, the gaffer looked a bit worried about the long offseason in Indian football but admitted that pre-season would be the key to building up again and compete well in the upcoming Indian Super League.
“The Covid Situation is awful because the players didn’t play. It was a long break so this influenced me too much. It’s different when you play practice games and championship games. I have different levels of players. Some played for the national team, some didn’t play for a long time. We have a challenge but it’s not impossible to get past it.“
As the 2020-21 season was behind closed doors, the same will be followed this year. Every player and coach wants to play in front of fans but unfortunately can’t. “Fans are our 12th player. It’s for every club, but especially for us, it is very important. I want to meet them, play in front of them because they support the team in every situation. Their support is essential. We are missing them so much,” concluded Bandovic.
Can Bandovic replicate the same result as he did in Buriram United with Chennaiyin FC, and in what position Chennaiyin will be in the points table at the end of the league stage remains to be seen.