Miles to go before we sleep, says Misaka United coach

AHMEDABAD: In 2018, when Misaka United FC decided to form a women’s team and participate in the local league in Karnataka, the mission was to develop local talent in the state. To their credit, their planning went exactly according to the script. This season, with a host of local players in their ranks, Misaka United won the state league and qualified for the Hero IWL.   

“Being able to participate in the Hero IWL was a dream come true for all of us,” head coach Antony Dias told after his side pumped in half a dozen goals against Kahaani FC in a Group A encounter. Antony Dias has been with the club since the 2015-16 season and in charge of the women’s team since then. 

“I have been with the club’s women’s team since its inception. Initially, we had a random bunch of players and could finish only fifth or sixth in the local league. But things started improving from season three and we made considerable progress. We finished third, and then as the runners up. Every year we’ve been emphasising on a certain set of rules and philosophy, which I wanted to implement and we’ve been doing that. And then came the success this season when we won the local league. It was not an easy journey for us,” said the Misaka United coach.

But then, Dias is not finished yet. “We’ve been preparing to play at this stage for quite some time, trying to help the local talent. So as a club, our aim was to first play here in the IWL, and we are here right now and we want to make a stand. We want to showcase what we’ve been working on for the past four to five years with local footballers. And then we want to stay here in the IWL and give more platforms to upcoming players,” he said.

“We as a team take pride in our team being one of the youngest squads in the IWL and has fielded these many players from Karnataka. They are really young girls with a lot of desire and potential. So that is something that we try to build into their minds in terms of how they can realise their potential and can play to the fullest and create a career path for themselves.”

Misaka currently have nine points from six matches. They won two, drew three and lost one. One of Misaka’s proudest moments of the season came when they held mighty Gokulam Kerala FC, the defending champions, to a goalless draw. It ended Gokulam Kerala FC’s 21-match winning streak spread over three seasons. 

“With this draw, we surprised many in Indian women’s football. But, I would say that we just played to a particular plan and strategy that we had devised. On that particular day, our girls played really well. 

“If you look at it, we didn’t beat them. It was a drawn match. So, I wouldn’t overemphasise the result. It, however, was a very crucial point,” the coach said.

On the team’s mentality about winning matches in their debut season, Antony said, “Once the girls start to believe, understand and trust themselves, then I think the results start to show up. It has to do with the players accepting the game style and the philosophy, rather than me doing anything tactical on the pitch.”

Misaka will now take on Sports Odisha on Friday, May 12, and the game will serve as a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals. Dias said, “We have no time to rest. We are still focused, our job is not yet done. Because we still need to get the final game, three points. That’s how I’ve structured it, that’s how I’ve been handling it.”

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