All Eyes On Odisha FC’s New-Look Side Ahead Of ISL 2020-21

With the seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL) approaching, we could see a new look Odisha FC as the club continues a major overhaul in the leadership and the overall squad. In the last season, despite some stellar displays, the club finished sixth with a total of 25 points. The fans would be demanding much more from the team in the upcoming season, having hired many talented young players during the current transfer window.

The club has also brought in a new head coach in Stuart Baxter, who has taken over from Joseph Gambau. Among new players are 21-year-old midfielder Paul Ramfangzauva, 19-year-old winger Isak Vanlalruatfela, 26-year-old left-back George D’Souza. Kamalpreet Singh, Hendry Antonay, Saurabh Meher, and highly-rated midfielder Thoiba Singh Moirangthem are among the other new faces.

Baxter has signed a two-year deal with the club. His experience of over 25 years in football should prove valuable in rebuilding the squad. In a long and successful career, Baxter has coached the South African national team, the England U-19 team, the Finland senior team, and many other professional clubs in Sweden, Norway, Portugal, Japan, and South Africa. His feat of achievements includes the South African Premier Soccer League title with Kaizer Chiefs twice and the J1 League (1st stage) title with Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Under his mentorship, the South African national team defeated Mohammed Salah’s Egypt in the 2019 African Cup of Nations and made it to the quarter-finals. In his tenure so far, Baxter has managed 455 games in all competitions, out of which he has won 220, drawn 75 and lost 160.

Talented defender George D’Souza has also signed a two-year deal. His exemplary performances at the Goa Premier League(GPL) was appreciated by many. Meanwhile, both Isak and Paul were part of Hero I League outfit Aizawl FC last season. Kamalpreet Singh played a key role in Minerva Punjab’s first-ever Hero I-League title-winning 2017-18 season, after which he moved to Kolkata-based East Bengal, where he has been playing for the last two seasons. Kamaljit Singh made his ISL debut with FC Pune in the 2017-18 season. The duo of Hendry Antonay and Saurabh Meher was earlier part of Chennaiyin FC.

The upcoming season is scheduled to begin from August 1, 2020, and continue until May 31, 2021. Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS), has recently held a meeting regarding the procedures the federations must take due to the ongoing pandemic. With the social distancing rules in place, the ISL might follow the lead of the European leagues and conduct matches behind closed doors, at least for the first few months. Nonetheless, fans would be eager for the season to begin as they prepare to watch live action from the comfort of their homes. And a new coach coupled with enthusiastic fresh talent scouted and signed by Odisha FC for the upcoming season might prove to be a winning combination for the club.