Newly-appointed FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovich sets his eyes on silverware as he speaks about the coming season and the young contingent.
The Rajesh Wadhawan-owned Indian Super League Club (ISL) club FC Pune City appointed Ranko Popovic as head coach in September following the removal of former coach Antonio Habas. This is Ranko’s first stint in the ISL, with the Serbian having previously managed clubs in Spain, Japan, Australia and Serbia. He was in charge of FC Tokyo for 90 games and Spanish Club Real Zaragoza for 51 where he led the club to La Liga play-offs but missed out.
According to FC Pune City CEO, Gaurav Modwel, Ranko was selected for his aggressive style of play and the fact that he helped 15-odd players to make it to the Japan National Team in his reign with FC Tokyo.
“It’s great to be a part of a club with such tremendous young talent who are keen on learning. I know the club has not been able to reach the heights it should in the past few seasons and my job is to not repeat the same. I think we have a lot of things to do — first is to be patient and not rush into things. The players were too confident, which is not good. I remind them every day that overconfidence will help only the opposition,” said the newly appointed coach.
Ranko, 50, began his managerial career in 2001 in Austria before moving to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the J-League in 2006. After a stint in Serbia, Ranko would return to Japan for a longer stay, one that included a stint with Cerezo Osaka around the same time the club signed Uruguayan star and former World Cup Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan.
The Pune franchise has a squad that is dominated by youngsters who are under the age of 23. Ranko believes that in India’s experience does not matter that much, as the leagues are short. “A player who has played the highest number of games in the ISL (all time) will be equal to the number of matches a player in Europe plays in one or two seasons. So I don’t think it will matter much because of the number of games,” he asserts.
“Since I have come here, I have told the players to not be afraid of committing mistakes and they are good bunch who learn from their errors. Their attitude towards the game is great, which impresses me,” he further adds.
FC Pune City are called Stallions by the fans but their performances in the past editions have not lived up to the name as they failed to reach the play-offs last season.
Ranko’s appointment could spice things, given his wide experience with clubs around the world. “My target is of course, to top the league but for that we have to beat ourselves, push our limits and then take on the opponent. I have been trying to inculcate this into my team so that we triumph,” says Ranko, who is training with the team in Pune.
The Pune team will start their campaign at home against Delhi Dynamos on November 22 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex.