Clifford Miranda, leads Odisha FC to Hero Super Cup semis against all odds

MANJERI: The Hero Super Cup 2023 has its fair share of surprises so far, with Bengaluru FC pipping Sreenidi Deccan on the last day to make the semi-finals, while Jamshedpur FC defied all odds in Group C to secure their spot in the top four at the expense of reigning Hero Indian Super League champions ATK Mohun Bagan, with a game in hand.

Manjeri, on Monday, April 17, 2023, was treated to yet another extravaganza, when Odisha FC defeated former Hero ISL champions Hyderabad FC to qualify for the semi-finals from Group B. Clifford Miranda, the man at the helm of the Odisha bridge was a coach with his heart on his sleeves, as he egged his players on.

“It was a difficult group, wasn’t it? We had the former champions of the Hero ISL (Hyderabad FC) and the Hero I-League (Aizawl FC), and a big club like East Bengal,” said Miranda. “Not many would have given us a chance at the start of the tournament, but here we are.”

The Bhubaneswar-based side has shown character throughout their three matches in Group B and have come back to clinch the top spot on the table.

“We drew the first game, when we came back from behind, and then again overturned a deficit against Hyderabad to win the match, so I feel the boys have shown how mentally strong they are. They do not back down when things get tough, and that’s a special mentality to have,” said Miranda.

The former India international, who was known for his creativity in the middle of the park and his propensity to fire accurately from long distance, gave the full credit to his boys, as Odisha FC, for the first time, have made it to the semi-finals of the Hero Super Cup.

“To be honest, it was already a set team when we took over, and the previous coach (Josep) Gombau had done a great job,” said Miranda. “After I took over, I merely tweaked a couple of things and the players responded very well. I can only ask them to play a certain way, and they have shown that trust and executed the plans very well.”

It is not regularly the Indian coaches do well in the top tier league of Indian Football in the modern day, but Miranda, in his three matches in charge as the head coach of Odisha, has, against all odds, stood out so far. Perhaps it comes down to his pure love for all things football.

“It’s (coaching) is quite different from playing, but I quite enjoy it. I love the tactics, I love to hit the training ground every day; I love to plan the training sessions, especially the tactical ones,” expressed Miranda. “I just love everything about it.”

Unlike most other footballers, the former midfielder did not take any time away from the beautiful game after hanging up his boots in 2017. Instead, he started working with FC Goa at the U-18 level, and worked his way up to the reserve team and then as an assistant coach in the senior FC Goa team in the years following his retirement.

“FC Goa had really helped me towards the start of my coaching career. Right from helping with my coaching licenses, to trusting me with the U-18s and the reserves, my current journey started there, and I would always be thankful for that opportunity and trust they had put in me,” Miranda said.

However, it was former India U-23 coach Arthur Papas, who had initially inspired Miranda to look at coaching as a viable option. “Arthur Papas was an inspiration. Seeing his love and dedication to the game and its tactics really inspired me,” he said.

Having served as an assistant coach at both FC Goa and Odisha FC, Miranda has now got the coveted role of head coach at the latter club, something that he himself is relishing.

“You do have a lot of responsibilities as the assistant coach, but as a head coach, you are supposed to take care of so much more,” he said. “Right now, I’m responsible for this whole group – starting XI players, bench players, and those who are not in the matchday squad, not to mention, the staff.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but I am enjoying it a lot. especially taking the training sessions, and setting up the tactical side of the team,” he said.

Odisha FC will now face the winners of Group D, where Mumbai City FC, Chennaiyin FC, and NorthEast United FC are fighting it out for the top spot.

“We obviously are looking forward to the semi-finals. Of course, we will keep an eye out for who our opponents will be, but regardless of that, our approach will be the same,” said Miranda. “We want to put ourselves in a good position to go further to the finals.”

Odisha FC are a side that has not won any silverware in Indian Football so far and going all the way in the Hero Super Cup could go some distance in relieving them off the burden of an empty trophy cabinet.

“If it happens (going all the way in the Hero Super Cup), it would be a huge thing for the club, but right now our focus is on the next match,” said Miranda. “It’s an ambitious club and the owners are very serious about doing a lot for the people of Odisha.”

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