Players need to perform to draw fans to stadium: ATK coach

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Kolkata, Oct 24 (IANS) ATK head coach Antonio Habas on Thursday urged his players to step up and perform to the level where home fans are forced to come to the stands and watch them play, ahead of the team’s first home game against newbies Hyderabad FC here on Friday.

Two-time Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK lost 1-2 to Kerala Blasters in Kochi on the very first day of ISL Season 6.

Carl McHugh had put ATK ahead with an absolute stunner in the sixth minute but the hosts, egged on by a vociferous crowd, hit back with two goals from new signing Bartholomew Ogbeche in the first half itself.

Habas had rued the missed opportunities after the game.

Playing at the Salt Lake Stadium now, the Spaniard has said his team has a lot of new faces and it will take time for them to find the right balance. But Habas has maintained that for fans to throng the 65,000 capacity stadium, the team needs to play a good brand of football.

“We need the support of the fans. I think we have to transmit the energy from the pitch for the fans. I don’t want to tell the fans to come support support and support. I think first the players on the pitch must perform well to win over the fans,” Habas said on the eve of the match.

“I think maybe we need more balance in the team. We need to improve with the players. We have seven new players in the team and it’s very difficult to create the perfect balance with a new side. We had many opportunities to score goals. We didn’t deserve to lose the match. But now we have to think about the match ahead,” he said.

ATK’s star player this time is Fijian captain Roy Krishna who was the top scorer in the A-League last season, and the city outfit would hope he fires on Friday in front of the home crowd. ATK don’t have any injuries for the Hyderabad clash.

Habas was also asked about the lesser number of foreigners in the league, and he said: “I feel it’s necessary for the growth of Indian Football. Every season you need to know more for the Indian players. You must give opportunities to Indian players. It’s necessary for the development of the Indian national team and for the growth of Indian football.”

Under Habas, who is back at the club for a second stint, ATK are looking to get back to where they were under the Spaniard.

Under him, then Atletico de Kolkata won the inaugural title in 2014 and made the last-four the following year.

Former Spanish international goalkeeper Jose Molina then took over the reins in the third season and the Kolkata franchise put up a dominant display to win their second title — a record they jointly hold with Chennaiyin FC in the five-year-old history of the league.

But since ATK severed ties with Atletico Madrid who looked after the technical affairs, their performances deteriorated sharply as they finished ninth and sixth in the last two editions.

–IANS

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