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Viva la Portugal is FC Pune City’s season 5 pitch

Lain Hume is the player to watch this season, but all eyes are on new coach Miguel Angel Portugal

pune Updated: Sep 12, 2018 19:01 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,fc pune,city
FC Pune City has begun the pre-season training for the Indian Super League, season 5, which begins for the club from October 10. New coach Miguel Angel Portugal (foreground, right) ris at the helm for this season, hoping to win the first ISL title for the Maratha stallions.(HT PHOTO)

After three seasons of despondency, FC Pune City turned a new leaf in the fourth season of the Indian Super League (ISL) last year, when they defied all odds to make the semi-finals, before eventually bowing out to Bengaluru FC.

Franco Colomba, David Platt and Antonio Lopez Habas all tried and failed at the helm as managers/ head coaches, but the fourth time seemed to be the charm as Ranko Popovic got the ‘Maratha stallions’ playing an exciting brand of football that had fans excited.

The club parted ways with the Serbian, opening the door for former Delhi Dynamos coach Miguel Angel Portugal, for this ISL season.

Portugal has in his arsenal this season, new signing Iain Hume, arguably one of the most decorated players to contest the ISL.

Speaking to Hindustan Times from the club’s pre-season training in Goa, the Canadian says, “I’ve played under four to five Spanish coaches in my career and Miguel is cut from the same cloth. They’re all the same; they like playing football the right way. They all have a certain vibe to them are very passionate, and I think Miguel is the same. The good thing the club has done is that they’ve kept hold of the core team from last year and have added

“I’m very happy to be here, to be honest. There are a good group of guys; the staff behind the scenes was very welcoming. I haven’t spent too much time in the city as we’ve been in Goa, but I can’t to get started and get going once again. We’re nearly at full-strength here, barring a few guys playing at the SAFF under-23 championships, but once they’re back we’re ready to go and begin the season,” the 34-year-old added.

Know the club, know the team
FC Pune City has signed some marquee names for this season’s ISL and the team looks set to build on last year’s semifinal achivement
AWES Cup: FC Pune City played the AWES Cup as a part of their pre-season preparations. They lost two games and drew one, but to note, they played primarily with their reserves, giving first-team players only a few game minutes each match.
NEW FOREIGN SIGNINGS (no values available)
Date of birth: October 30, 1983
Position: Forward
Nationality: Canada
Hume is the highest goal scorer in the history of Indian Super League and has plied his trade in ISL with Kerala Blasters FC and ATK scoring 28 goals across four seasons. Besides, his 59 appearances till date is the highest number of games played by any player in ISL. Hume has represented his national side in U20 and senior team, he has also played for the international clubs like Leicester City, Tranmere Rovers and others.
Matt Mills
Date of birth: July 14, 1986
Position: Defender
Nationality: England
Mills started his career with Swindon Town before joining Southampton in 2003. In 2006, he signed with Manchester City. In 2008, Mills joined Doncaster Rover and later moved to Reading Football Club leading the team in the 2011 Championship play-off. Matthew then went to Leicester City followed by Bolton Wanderers, before moving to Nottingham Forest. He helped England U-19 qualify for European U-19 Championship.
Jonathan Vila
Date of birth: March 6, 1986
Position: Midfielder
Nationality: Spain
Jonathan began his youth career with Celta de Vigo and made his La Liga debut in 2006 including playing the UEFA Cup 2006-07. The midfielder was traded to Beitar Jerusalem FC in 2014. In 2017, the Spanish midfielder moved back to Spain to join Recreativo de Huelva and is now raring to go for FC Pune City.
Martin Diaz
Date of birth: March 17, 1988
Position: Defender
Nationality: Uruguay
Martin began his senior career with Defensor Sporting in 2008 and later played for Dinamo Bucuresti, CD Badajoz, Montevideo Wanderers, Atletico Rafaela and Liverpool FC in Primera Division. NorthEast United FC signed him last season where he played 16 games. Martin also captained his national team in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship.
Gabriel Fernandes
Date of birth: April 22, 1988
Position: Midfielder
Nationality: India
Fernandes started his youth career with Dempo and Sporting Goa. In 2012, he joined Mumbai FC. The 30-year old made his ISL debut with FC Goa in 2014 and joined Mumbai City FC in the next season. Since then, the winger has played in I-League for Salgaocar, Churchill Bros and East Bengal.
Alwyn George
Date of birth: March 1, 1992
Position: Midfielder
Nationality: India
Alwyn started his career with the Tata Football Academy in 2008 and signed with Pailan Arrows four year later. At Dempo he was named best young Indian player of the season for two years in a row. Alwyn played in ISL with FC Goa, Delhi Dynamos and Bengaluru FC.
Shankar Sampingiraj
Date of birth: December 14, 1994
Position: Midfielder
Nationality: India
Sampingiraj made his India U-23 debut against Uzbekistan in a 2016 AFC U-23 qualifier in Bangladesh. The young midfielder appeared for Kerala Blasters FC in 2015 ISL season. The Karnataka-born follows other sports like UFC & Tennis and he is one of the youngest players in FC Pune City squad this season.
Nikhil Poojary
Date of birth: September 3, 1995
Position: Midfielder
Nationality: India
Nikhil started his career in Mumbai. Soon he joined the youth team of Mumbai FC before being signed by East Bengal in 2015. His pace and fitness levels with East Bengal impressed national scouts that rightly got him a call for India U23 and later he earned his stripes for the senior side too.
Robin Singh
Date of birth: May 9, 1990
Position: Forward
Nationality: India
Robin brings in a wealth of experience playing with Indian clubs and national team alike. Starting his youth career with Chandigarh Football Club in 2003, he followed this by joining Tata Football Academy (TFA) in 2005. The forward has also spent a year training in UAE Pro League Club and England where he was trained under former English footballer Melyvn Eves. His senior career kicked off with East Bengal in 2010 and later had a stint with Bengaluru FC, Delhi Dynamos, FC Goa and ATK. His national team debut with India U-16 was during his TFA days followed by India U-23 and the senior team in 2011.
Miguel Angel Portugal
Position: Coach

The new FC Pune City coach is a former Spanish player who never represented his country at the professional level, but made two caps for the Spanish under-23 side. He played for a host of Spanish clubs, with Real Madrid being the best of the lot.
His managerial career started at Real Madrid C and he also enjoyed two stints of managing the B Team from 1997-1999 and 2005-2006. Portugal served as technical director of Real Madrid subsequently (post managing the B team). In November 2008, he was set to take over at the club as coach following the sacking of Bernd Schuster, but president Ramon Calderon preferred Juande Ramos instead.
He then managed a host of clubs including Racing Santander and Valladolid before moving to India in 2017, taking up the number one role at Delhi Dynamos. On 1st May 2018, he returned to Spain after being appointed manager of Granada, but did not do enough to get the permanent job, and was back to the ISL after being appointed by FC Pune City.

Hume, who is a former ATK and Kerala Blasters striker, said, “I think I’ve proven to everyone that age is not a number for me and I’m just as fit as anybody, so I’m glad about it. On the same note, I am also recovering from injury since February. When I injured my head several years ago, I was out for three months before I was back training. I just wanted to get back to playing football as quickly as I can and continued doing all that my rehab needed me to. Even now, at 34, I’m recovering from a knee injury and the fitness coach at the club has helped me get better thankfully.”

FC Pune City’s reserve goalkeeper Bilal Khan, who was impressive in the AWES Cup in Goa, from which the team has just returned, also spoke to Hindustan Times sharing his experiences of playing in the first-team.

Khan said, “I’ve learnt a lot in this year at FC Pune City. The players all have the right attitude and have helped me improve in every step of the way. Guys like Marcelinho, Alfaro and Gurtej Singh have worked with me and told me things I need to do to get better. I’m also happy with the chances Miguel has handed to be in the first team, and I’m only hoping to do well with the opportunities I get.”

The young goalkeeper also spoke about how important the team’s pre-season trip to Goa has been in inculcating a positive team spirit in the side.

“I think the journey has been fantastic. We have all our senior and overseas players here training and communicating with us. We are playing matches that is keeping our fitness levels in check and I think it’s extremely crucial for every team to play these kind of competitive games before every season begins.”

His compatriot in the reserve side, seeking to break into the first team after good AWES Cup performances, is midfielder Abhishek Halder. The young midfielder explained how Pune’s coaches have played a vital role in shaping his game.

“The coaches have a one-to-one relationship with everyone. They notice our performance in training games and tell us what we need to do by bringing up ISL examples. Aspects in my overall game such as passing, stamina, the ability to adapt to different kinds of players playing around me while also my footballing game have all dramatically improved here at FC Pune City.”

First Published: Sep 12, 2018 16:08 IST