They were bustling with energy at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Sunday. Full of vigour, the Pune FC boys looked fresh as they tried out their moves, set pieces and all, on the turf that will host the Federation Cup from Tuesday.
Things appear to be falling into place nicely for the team’s coach Mike Snoei and his boys. Runner-up last year, Pune is now in third place halfway through the I-League, six points behind leader Bengaluru FC and three away from Sporting Clube de Goa, but with a match in hand.
“We are settling down and see this as a nice preparation for the Asian Champions League play-off soon after the Federation Cup,” said the Dutchman who has been with the team for the last six months. “And we have beaten Bengaluru, so our chances are good. But, we will not underestimate the local team, Eagles FC…the first match is very important.
“Our team owner Piramal has not set any goals for us; he just asked me to just develop the side nicely but I have set goals for my boys, to win the cup here. We have a good bunch of youngsters and some of them are very good.”
Apart from the talented youngsters, the team has a good striker in the Ghana-born Dutchman Rahamat Riga Mustapha who has scored five goals despite landing late for the I-League, a wily attacking midfielder in Ivory Coast’s Douhou Pierre and the Japan-born Indian national team midfielder Arata Izumi.
Snoei was very happy with the green here after getting a feel of it. “I love natural turf, it’s nice here. We play on natural green back home, so it’s great to see this,” he said.
He is now making efforts to get the local people to support the team. “It used to be around 2000 for our home matches earlier now, it’s around 7000. I’m trying to pull the fathers, mothers, brothers and the families to come and watch our games,” he said.
“Now, people are a bit more interested, because they have a team which is playing in the I-League.”
With the Kerala-born Anas Edathodika being the captain of the team here, Pune FC could expect some solid backing from football buffs here too.
Meanwhile, Rahamat Riga Mustapha appeared very positive too. “The boys have told me that this tournament is very important, almost as important as the I-League so I hope we do well and show some good football here.”
The team has a good striker in the Ghana-born Dutchman Rahamat Riga Mustapha There is also the wily attacking midfielder in Ivory Coast’s Douhou Pierre
The team has a good striker in the Ghana-born Dutchman Rahamat Riga Mustapha
There is also the wily attacking midfielder in Ivory Coast’s Douhou Pierre