Chennaiyin FC unveiled their first team squad for the 2019-20 Indian Super League season at a press conference with the club’s vociferous supporters also present in Chennai today. The two-time ISL champions have retained twelve players from the start of the previous campaign; the club’s 25-man squad for the upcoming season comprising many young guns in the form of Rahim Ali (19), Hendry Antonay (19), Reamsochung Aimol (19) and Deepak Tangri (20).
While Head Coach John Gregory has retained players in key positions, a number of vital reinforcements have been made especially among the foreign contingent. Experienced Romanian defender Lucian Goian joins the fray after three seasons at Mumbai City FC; along with his compatriot in winger Dragos Firtulescu also coming onboard. There’s tons of versatility in the CFC ranks with Afghan midfielder Masih Saighani along with forwards Andre Schembri from Malta and Nerijus Valskis from Lithuania adding further firepower. Brazilian attacking midfielder Rafael Crivellaro also joins after a spell in the Portuguese top tier, while his compatriot Eli Sabia enters his third season with CFC.
Local midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh is back fit after missing majority of the last campaign with a knee injury. Ganesh is joined by another top Tamil Nadu talent in right-back Edwin Vanspaul, who joined the club in the summer.
CFC continue to employ a healthy mix of youthful exuberance and experienced campaigners, given the signings of goalkeeper Vishal Kaith and Mizo speedster Lallianzuala Chhangte; as custodian Karanjit Singh embarks upon the new season in a renewed role of Goalkeeper cum Goalkeeping Coach.
“We’ve made necessary changes to our squad for the coming season, and there’s a lot of positivity in the camp. We’ve had a great pre-season in Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur, and the boys have come together really well, a proper unit. Now it’s important for us to carry this preparation and momentum into the new ISL season,” said a determined John Gregory after introducing each member of his playing squad and staff, as the fans cheered with gusto.
“We’re really thankful for this unconditional support we receive from all our fans, who show up in huge numbers and back us through thick and thin,” the Chennaiyin gaffer added.
The media and fans fielded a number of questions to the players as well. “A new season with new faces and a fresh start. All we’re focusing on is to gel well together and make a good start. That’s all that matters right now,” said India international midfielder Anirudh Thapa, who will be away with the national team along with Chhangte ahead of their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh on October 15 at Kolkata.
New signing Lucian Goian also reflected on his move to Chennaiyin, saying “From my very first contact with the club and the coach here, I have always trusted in the vision to win the ISL championship. It’s a club that knows how to win, and I trust the project and the coach (John Gregory) to guide us in achieving success. I am very happy to be here right now after three very good years in Mumbai. I needed a new challenge and I am sure Chennaiyin is the right challenge for me.”
CFC’s pre-season preparations comprised three weeks in Ahmedabad followed by a week in Jamshedpur. Chennaiyin defeated Ahmedabad’s ARA FC 3-1 in a friendly on September 15 and are set to face I-League side Gokulam Kerala FC on Tuesday 8th October. They begin their ISL campaign with a trip to FC Goa on Wednesday 23rd October.
Chennaiyin FC Squad
Karanjit Singh, Vishal Kaith, Sanjiban Ghosh
Eli Sabia (Brazil), Lucian Goian (Romania), Jerry Lalrinzuala, Edwin Vanspaul, Tondonba Singh, Laldinliana Renthlei, Zohmingliana Ralte, Hendry Antonay, Reamsochung Aimol, Deepak Tangri
Dhanpal Ganesh, Masih Saighani (Afghanistan), Thoi Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Germanpreet Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro (Brazil), Dragos Firtulescu (Romania)
Nerijus Valskis (Lithuania), Andre Schembri (Malta), Jeje Lalpekhlua, Rahim Ali