After a back-door exit by ‘Bengaluru Titans’, amidst another road-block, Chennaiyin FC was conceived. Initially reports came out that the ISL organizers were looking for bidders for new owners for the Bangalore franchise before it was revealed that Ronnie Screwvala and actor Abhishek Bachchan would together bid for a Chennai team instead of a Bangalore franchise. Making it the second team from South India, Chennaiyin FC have given thousands of Tamils, joy and happiness, in the form of football, as a proper football club always eluded this part of India. The club partook in a draft process, made to sign players, and displayed shrewd knowledge and acumen. Carrying a logo, which is sought to drive off ‘bad luck’, Team Chennai recently made headlines, announcing ownership with Indian Cricket Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, would be looking to make their mark, in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League.
The trend of Bollywood stars owning Football Franchisees, has engulfed Football, in India. From John Abraham owning the North East United Club to Ranbir Kapoor owning Mumbai City FC, perhaps a c0-ownership with celebs, equally football fans, are a blessing, for all.
Co-owned by Abhishek Bachchan and Ronnie Screwvala, the team already has roots deep into football, starting from the owners themselves. Abhishek Bachchan is a Chelsea FC fan and his love for the beautiful game, is often seen by one and all. He has often expressed his views on revolutionizing football in India. Carrying a Bachchan Brand, with masses behind, Chennaiyin FC has assured themselves of a full stadium.
Chennaiyin FC will make Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, as their fortress. The JLN Stadium, has a seating capacity of 40,000. With renovations being concluded, the fans present in the stadium will be acting as the ’12th Man’, influencing the games, at will. Though lacking in accomodation quantity, as compared to Dynamo’s 60,000 and Kerala’s 75,000, the ‘whistle podus’ from Chennai are sure to make up for their numerical disadvantage by cheering the team, with heart and will.
Ex-Inter Milan man and World Cup Winner, Marco Materazzi was announced as the player-coach of the franchisee. On first look, the inclusion of Marco seems to be a brilliant move, on the contrary, Marco’s inclusion as a coach, may lead to tactical frailties, as the Italian has never managed a club in his career. At 41, Marco is a decorated player, but in terms of trophies won as a manager, he is still amateur. Materazzi soon, started with his mind games, dubbing Mumbai City FC as the favorites to win the title. Only time can tell, if this appointment acts as a stroke of masterclass played, or showcased naivety, by the ‘men in yellow’.
Goalkeepers: Gennaro Bracigliano, Shilton Paul and Abhijit Mondal
A brilliant mix of experience with a touch of youth, the Chennaiyin FC have more than cemented their Guard between the sticks. Both, Gennaro Bracigliano and Abhijit Mondal, are experienced cookies, with the former belting 200 appearances for French Club Nancy, while the latter has won some of the most coveted trophies, in his illustious career. Meanwhile, Shilton Paul, aged 26, is still an upcoming goalkeeper. After graduating from Tata Football Academy Paul signed with I-League club Mohun Bagan A.C. He did not get any game time however till the I-League 2010-11 season, where he got 12 caps for Bagan. The team from Chennai could very well start with Mondal, with Paul and Gennaro as possible successful replacements.
Defenders: Dhanachandra Singh, Gouramangi Singh, Khelemba Singh, Abhishek Das, Bernard Mendy, Mikaël Silvestre, Marco Materazzi and Jairo Suárez
Assembling a mature, experienced back line, Chennaiyin FC have assured themselves of defensive stability. Led by Marco Materazzi, who himself is highly regarded by two of the world’s most respected coaches, Marcello Lippi and José Mourinho, and became close friends with both. Materazzi was lauded by his managers in particular for being a goal threat as a defender, due to his outstanding aerial ability, which made him dangerous during set pieces. Another veteran of the war is Mikael Silvestre, Silvestre has featured for Manchester United constantly from 1998 to 2008, wherein he played alongside Rio Ferdinand and amassed 249 appearances. While Silvestre is an international veteran, Gouramangi Singh is a national hero, A product of the Tata Football Academy, he has plied his trade with many clubs in the country including Dempo SC and Churchill Brothers. While at Dempo, Singh won the Federation Cup and the National Football League. Gouramangi is one of the tallest players in the Indian national team and possesses an ability to head the ball strongly especially in set piece situations and is also effective in tackling. Meanwhile, players such as Bernard Mendy, Dhanachandra Singh and Abhishek Das provide the team with balance and excellent fluidity in attack. A defense which focuses on strength alone, could be perhaps one of the most solid in the whole of Indian Super League.
Midfielders: Harmanjot Khabra, Denson Devadas, Anthony Barbosa, Pappachen Pradeep, Jaison Vales, Sukhwinder Singh, Cristian Hidalgo, Bojan Djordjic, Pierre Tillman, Bruno Pelissari, and Elano
The Midfield boasts high International pedigree while sidelining Indian talent. Cristian Hidalgo and Bojan Bjordjic, who operate on the wings are set to enamor the ‘whistle podu’ by their trickery and skill. Cristian was a product of FC Barcelona’s youth system. He scored three goals during the 2003–04 season and four in the following campaign, while performing as a forward with the B-team. Meanwhile, Djordjic started his career at IF Brommapojkarna before moving to Manchester United in 1999 as a youth player. Although considered a budding talent, he only made two appearances for United, but was awarded the club’s Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year Award at the age of 18. He also scored a memorable chip against Celtic 15 May 2001 coming on as a substitute for Ryan Giggs in Tom Boyd’s testimonial game which United won 2–0 at Celtic Park. The Chennai Contingent also proudly boasts the youngest marquee player, Elano Blumer. Elano, who plays as an Attacking Midfielder, started his career with Guarani, after which he joined Santos the former club of Pelé, where he played alongside Robinho, Diego, and Alex. Elano soon gained a reputation as a talented goal scoring midfielder, forming part of the Santos side, which won the Campeonato Brasileiro in 2004. Lacking high profile Indian Names excluding Denson Devadas, the squad are expected to rely on their foreign recruits, whilst the Indians providing covers and possible replacements, when and if needed.
Forwards: Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jayesh Rane, Balwant Singh, Eduardo Silva Lerma and John Stiven Mendoza
The attack of the Team Chennai, relies on Indian Shoulders. Jeje Lalpekhlua, is supposedly the best bet, in the scoring department of the franchisee. Jeje, has been in inspirational and instrumental for his club sides, such as Pune FC and Indian Arrows, scoring 13goals in 15 appearances for the latter. His recent heroics, in the Calcutta League have also justified his position as the main man to go to for goals. While Jayesh Rane adds a streak of youth in the squad, Balwant Singh adds experience. Rane, joined Mumbai F.C. as a youth player in 2008 and during the 2012 I-League U20, the top youth league in India, ended as the top scorer throughout the entire league with 13 goals. Rane was then selected into the Mumbai first-team for the 2012 Indian Federation Cup. Punjab born, Balwant Singh started his career with the highly acclaimed JCT Mills, subsequently moving to Salagaocar and Churchill Brothers, in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Now playing for Mohun Bagan, Balwant Singh is well versed with the annals of Indian Football, and would be looking to harness his goal scoring tally, back. Both, Silva and Mendoza would be looking to assist the Indian Forwards and share with them the heavy responsibilities of goal scoring.
Possible Starting Line-Up: Shilton Paul, Bernard Mendy, Gouramangi Singh, Marco Materazzi,Dhanachandra Singh,Harmanjot Khabra, Pierre Tillman, Cristian Hidalgo, Bojan Djordjic,Elano, Jeje
Formation : 4-2-3-1
Expected to lineup in a 4-2-3-1, with Marco Materazzi and Gouramangi Singh operating as the pillars of defense, the Chennai squad will rely on the acumen and ‘final balls’ of attacking trio, Bojan, Elano and Hidalgo. Jeje, who often operates as a second striker, will link up play between the three, and take advantage of his pace, to drive the ball home.
Player To Watch Out For : Jeje Lalpekhlua
One of the most talented player in the country, Jeje has been dubbed many things from the new Bhutia to the new Chhetri. The Mizoram born striker has fascinated the country with his pace, scoring record and finishing. Jeje, is perhaps the one of the best signings of the Chennai based club, having scored 37 times in 95 appearances, it is clear that his goal scoring prowess can be compared to only a few. The striker has a mix of experience and youth (23 years old), which can be beneficial to the newly found franchisee.
Possible Finish: 3rd
Accommodating Defensive Solidity with Midfield Fluidity, the Chennaiyin FC contingent is set to capture hearts and souls of many Indians. However, a serious title challenge, might be off the cards, as the club lacks depth and quality in attack. An assuring third place with a chance to to perhaps pose a late title threat, might be more than enough for the Abhishek Bachchan co-owned side.