Foreign Signings in the ISL Part I – The First 5 Clubs

[Date: 03-9-2017]

So, I will be dividing the review of foreign signings into two posts. There are 10 teams, after all and every one of them has made foreign signings (Yes, even NEUTD FC…).

In this post, I will focus on Amar, Tomar, Kolkata (remember to use sarcasm tone), Kerala Blasters FC, Delhi Dynamos (haha Vogliotti), Mumbai City FC, and Northeast United FC (get someone, FFS).

From the outset, let me say that I like the business done by the previous year’s finalists, ATK and KBFC. They’ve gotten in big names and more importantly, they’ve gotten in some very effective players. The dark horse in this group will be Delhi Dynamos. Even with the Vogliotti faux-glioti fiasco, their objective of playing the South American brand of football interests me. I want to see how it works in India particularly considering our climate. Let’s go then. Continue reading

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Delhi Capture Homeboy Robin Singh!

The prodigal son has returned!

After a long wait, Robin Singh will be plying his trade in his hometown. No doubt, his parents, who are massive football fans, will be happy their star of a son will come home to play with Delhi Dynamos FC

Delhi Dynamos FC Turn Ashes to Diamond with Robin Singh’s Capture

Delhi Dynamo FC's Robin Singh

Time to play for Hometown Club

It was a topsy-turvy day as auction days have been known to be. This was especially true for Delhi Dynamos FC who has lost out on their bid for Sunil Chhetri to Mumbai City FC earlier. They had bid Rs 1.15 crore for Chhetri before Mumbai bid with Rs 1.20 crore.

However, they had a backup plan and it involved winning the signature of hometown football star Robin Singh.

Robin Singh, as explained earlier, is a beast of a striker whose specialty is using his physical stature to bully defenders. He is a good header of the ball and can hold it up on the ground as well.

Holding the ball up in the striker position can bring wingers and midfielders into play as they will look to make darting runs behind Robin Singh. Robin Singh will no doubt look to feed his teammates as Roberto Carlos will most probably also set his fullbacks to bomb into forward positions.

Not Many Bids for Robin Singh

The surprising factor with Robin Singh’s auction was that there weren’t many bids for India’s second favourite striker. The only team vying for Robin Singh against Delhi Dynamos FC was Kerala Blasters FC.

Kerala Blasters FC, smarting from their loss of Iain Hume to Atletico De Kolkata, took their bid to Rs 50 lakh before bowing out of the bidding process. In the end, it was strange that no other teams bid for Robin Singh since he is regarded as a talent in the Indian setup.

However, with all respect to Robin Singh, I don’t believe he is going to be able to make that much of a difference to the team he plays for, as I explained earlier. The other ISL teams seemed to have agreed with me and the final price for Robin Singh was an underwhelming Rs 51 lakh.

I do hope that Robin Singh makes a difference though. I like people with a fire in their belly and Robin Singh certain has the flame of R’hllor flowing through his veins. Expect him to give it his all. Who knows, he may improve to a level that no one though was possible before.

A Statement of Intent from Delhi Dynamos FC

Roberto Carlos for Delhi Dynamos FC

Roberto Carlos for Delhi Dynamos FC

Remember, this is a crucial capture for Delhi Dynamos FC simply because they’ve been late to the ISL squad preparation party.

While they’ve been lazing around and waiting to confirm a manager before signing key players, other teams have been active from the get go.

At the same time, when Roberto Carlos confirmed his role as marquee player manager for Delhi Dynamos FC, he specified that they’ll be looking to bid for Chhetri and Robin Singh. Even though they didn’t succeed with Chhetri, they struck gold with Robin Singh.

Delhi Dynamos FC’s signing of Robin Singh is also not surprising because Roberto Carlos specifically stated that he will look to bring Delhi players in to play for their city’s club. In addition to Robing Singh, Delhi Dynamos FC also brought in Anas Edathodika, who till now has been playing as a Central Defender in the I-League.

Roberto Carlos hasn’t been a very successful manager in his last two stints, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in India.

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Kerala Blasters FC 2015 Squad: Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

There’s no one better than John Le Carre when it comes to writing spy novels. No, don’t talk to me about Ludlums and Flemings, I fall firmly in the Le Carre camp.

However, it seems that the Indian Super League’s inner soul has also been reading Le Carre’s works. Why, you ask, my gracious reader?

I believe we have the makings of a John Le Carre novel in our own lovely Indian Super League especially with the confirmation of Peter Taylor as the Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad manager. To be precise, with Taylor’s arrival, we’re almost ready to have the Indian version of the Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy! Consider.

Marco Materazzi is The Tinker

Marco Materazzi = The Tinker

Marco Materazzi = The Tinker

If you saw how Chennaiyin FC was managed by Materazzi last time out, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Marco tinkered with his time like there was no tomorrow and in a way there wasn’t. His most noticeable tinkerings had come in the semis – specifically the second leg.

You, like I, should expect Materazzi to continue tinkering. So, Marco Materazzi is my Tinker.

Habas the Henchman is The Soldier

Habas the Henchman

Habas the Henchman = The Soldier

Without a doubt, Habas the Henchman is the soldier. He fights, he rages, and behind closed doors, he probably choke slams people.

That player won’t train the way he was told? Choke Slam!

That chairman didn’t buy the player he asked for? Choke Slam!

That team bus got a puncture? Choke Slam!

That crystal meth won’t cook right? Choke Slam!

That sandwich is too salty? Choke Slam!

That constipation in the morning? Choke Slam!

Anyways, you get the idea. Habas the Henchman typifies the soldier in this setup. His team is always physical and with great stamina. His strategy is more about domination and intimidation than finesse and technique. He focuses on brute strength. So, Habas the Henchman is my Soldier

(Trivia: If Habas the Henchman was leading Delhi Dynamos FC, what would happen? Of course, they will win but apart from that? He would be Chole Slamming people! Get it? Coz he’ll be in North India? No? Pfft! What do you know!!!

Peter Taylor is… err… The Tailor

Peter Taylor = The Tailor

Peter Taylor = The Tailor

So, I come to my senses and we come to the Taylor… or the… Tailor, whichever one you prefer.

You know, I am not just using this lingo at random. I actually believe that these three managers characterise the names I am giving them.

You saw how I explained Marco and Habas. Was I wrong? Let me explain Taylor and you’ll see what I mean by Taiylor (I can’t keep typing Taylor and Tailor all the time, so!).

In case you didn’t know Peter Taylor has been signed to lead the Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad.

Generic media news would tell you that Peter Taiylor is a former English national who has coached junior England national teams and multiple English clubs before agreeing to lead the Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad.

Some journos who’ve done a little bit of research would even tell you that Taiylor once even managed the full England national team. However, that was for just one match against Italy, which he lost 1 – 0.

The really hardworking ones will tell you that Taiylor has recently managed Bahrain and brought them their first regional trophy. They will list all the teams he’s managed but what none of them will tell you is what he’s like as a manager.

That job falls to me. Taiylor is actually a tailor, the way he manages. He sews things. He mends teams. He makes sure that they don’t come apart at their seams. This means that Taylor becomes by Tailor.

What Are the Greatest Achievements of Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor with Hull City

Peter Taylor with Hull City

Peter Taylor’s greatest achievement in my eyes was back to back promotions for Hull City FC from Division Three to The Championship.

He took reins of a club in dire straits and catapulted them to the Championship.

He only left because Crystal Palace (a club he had played for and loved) came calling.

By the way, because of his achievements with The Tigers, Taiylor is highly respected by their fans.

His second best achievement, according to me, occurred when he managed England. That was the game he gave a break to David Beckham, Gareth Barry, Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher, and Emile Heskey with Beckham the captain.

They were all youngsters then. So, it was kind of ballsy and perceptive.

How Will Peter Taylor Lead the Kerala Blasters FC 2015 Squad?

Every time Taiylor has managed a team, he has tried to work within the resources that are given to him. He has always managed to do well by his team but has never managed to truly make his teams great.

In other words, he has always been one step below the top flight managers. But, he has managed to do well against the second and third tier managers fairly often. So, I’m not that surprised that he has chosen to come to India and lead Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad.

He was going nowhere in a hurry and was a free man before the chance to lead Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad came calling. Taiylor has a tendency to play to his team’s strengths so expect him to try to work within the limitations of the Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad.

Attacking Hull City FC

Attacking Hull City FC

I know for a fact that he likes attacking football because that’s how he had his most successful team, Hull City play. At the same time, if he feels he doesn’t have the right players, then he may just choose to be pragmatic about the whole thing.

Regardless of which style of football Taiylor patronises while leading Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad, I think he may be an upgrade on David James. First of all, James was a player manager which means that his concentration was always split up. Secondly, James didn’t have much experience as a manager.

In fact, Kerala Blasters were the first team he managed. James’ lack of focus because of his dual roles and his lack of experience is why I think Taiylor is a better option.

The Junior Lewis Connection

Junior Lewis

Junior Lewis

Another thing you Kerala Blasters FC fans should know about is that Taiylor has a special brotherly love thing going on with Junior Lewis.

Basically, everywhere Taiylor goes, the first thing he does is gets Junior Lewis to join him.

He has signed Lewis six times as a player and two times as a coach or an assistant manager.

Lewis is currently free so you may see him joining the Kerala Blaster FC 2015 squad as well.

I don’t know whether Lewis coming to Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad will be a good thing or not. This is mainly because Lewis usually operates at extremely small clubs in England.

Still, I am not one to reject someone before they’ve shown what they can do so I’m being optimistic even if he does follow Taiylor.

Who Will Be The Spy?

So, I have satisfied my verbal diarrhoea about Taiylor and explained to you what I expect from him as the manager of the Kerala Blasters FC 2015 squad. Now, we’re left with the Spy.

Who will be the Spy of the ISL 2015 season? We don’t know. How can we know? If we knew the Spy wouldn’t be a good spy now would he? He would be Johnny English then. The way I see it, the Spy will lead one of the teams that have not been pegged to do well.

Sam Allardyce - The Angry Spy

Sam Allardyce – The Angry Spy

The Spy could be a player like Adriano who is expected to come but fail after he comes. The Spy could have been Harm Van Veldhoven but he’s already left these shores. The Spy may be a manager who hasn’t been revealed yet.

Consider the fact that Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce are both being considered by Indian Super League franchises. The Spy could be either one of those. I am waiting for the arrival of my Spy.

Let’s see if our John Le Carre novel actually comes through.

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How Have the ISL Marquee Players Performed This Season – Part I

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

The Champs Atletico De Kolkata and the ISL Finalists Kerala Blasters FC

ISL Marquee Players

Many More than just 8 ISL Marquee Players

Let me start with a few disclaimers. This will NOT be a short post. It will NOT be only about ‘ISL Marquee Players’. It will NOT be generic.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain what I meant. By saying that this will not be a short post, I mean that I will actually do some research into each player I am going to mention here. I plan to check stats and even some videos for this post.

By saying this this will not be only about ‘ISL Marquee Players’, I mean that I will go beyond the 8 player restriction that that official term triggers. I will expand that purview to include other players. How will I decide who gets to be researched? Well, that’s my prerogative. This means that I may leave out some players that you think deserved to be included. If you think I did, give me a shout.

By saying that it will not be generic, I mean that you shouldn’t expect this post to be like the generic crap that many ‘news websites’ (I call them link junkies) are churning out under the guise of ISL Marquee Player reviews.

I have shortlisted 17 individuals who, I believe, need to be treated as ISL Marquee Players and one surprise, which makes a total of 18 people. Naturally, since I can’t create a single long and winding post that never ends, I’ll be breaking this one down to smaller pieces. In this instalment, you get the two ISL finalists.

So, without further ado, let’s get down and dirty.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Luis Garcia

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Luis Garcia, Atletico De Kolkata

Kolkata’s Luis Garcia did what I call the intangibles. He wasn’t at the end of the good things that Kolkata did but he was neither negligible because he made his team tick. What I mean by intangibles is that what he did wasn’t directed at appearing in statistic tables.

He only provided two assists and scored twice, of which one was a penalty kick. He wasn’t the most prolific shooter and he didn’t even get the majority of his shots on target. With players like these, you need step outside the general view. You have to see them in action in real games. You have to see their indirect influence so to speak.

Luis Garcia’s influence on his team, while not exemplary, wasn’t negligible either. Every time he was on the pitch, I could see Kolkata’s passing quality becoming that much better. All you need to see Garcia’s value to his team is see the games in which he isn’t playing.

Kolkata’s attacks were more blunted and ineffectual without him. They simply lacked the guile that is needed to unlock defences. At the same time, he could’ve done more.

If you’ve seen Luis Garcia play at his peak then you would know that his biggest strengths were his agility and speed both of which are not available to him anymore. It is because of this reason that I’m not surprised with his underwhelming performance. I still had expected a little more.

Expected Rating**: 7.5 / 10

Final Rating: 6 / 10

I expected him to do more mainly because I hadn’t seen him for a long time and remembered his days in the Liverpool and Atletico De Madrid jerseys.

Atletico De Kolkata’s Borja Fernandez

Borja, Atletico De Kolkata

Borja, Atletico De Kolkata

I remember when I used to think that Borja Fernandez was a very good player. He had just broken through the Real Madrid first team then.

He ended up playing only 23 games for them over a period of 3 seasons. That was 2003, a period when I was easily wowed by football. Nowadays, I’m a little more jaded having seen the Invincibles which I believe was the epitome of football.

Borja was a mixed bag of a player in the last 3 months but I think he fit in perfectly with Kolkata’s philosophy. You most probably don’t know what I’m talking about because you haven’t seen the stats yet.

Borja was the best tackler in the league. He had the maximum number of tackles at 63. He was far ahead too because the second position is held by Denson Devadas of Chennaiyin FC with only 53.

However, answer me this. What happens when you have a player who is free with his tackles? Why, you get loads of fouls! That’s exactly what Borja did too. He was second in the Indian Super League with fouls committed at 36.

Who was he behind? His darling teammate Fikru Lemessa. How behind was he? By only 1 foul! So, the top two foulers in ISL were from Atletico De Kolkata. If you’ve been reading my reports, you’ll know that I’ve been castigating Atletico De Kolkata for their overly physical game. With these numbers I rest my case on that debate.

Expected Rating**: 6 / 10

Final Rating: 6.5 / 10

I didn’t think Borja would end up having the kind of influence that he did in the end but a lot of that is because of the way his team was setup. His team’s style of play and his style of play were perfectly complimentary which is why he turned in a better season than expected.

Kerala Blasters FC’s David James

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

You could say that David James is a legendary British keeper. He still holds the record for most clean sheets in the English Premier League and is 3rd in terms of all time appearances.

In the yellow of Kerala Blasters FC, despite his old age (he is 44 years old just in case you didn’t know), James still showed why he is a legend. It is unheard of for players to play up to 44 years, even if they’re keepers but James did and did a fair good job of it too.

James played 12 games for Kerala, an achievement in itself but kept the opposition from scoring in 5 of those games. Overall, he allowed 10 goals in at an average of less than a goal per game. Those are good numbers even if you don’t consider James’ age.

The best part about James, though, was his performance as a manager. Granted, Kerala Blasters FC struggled to score goals during the league phase of the ISL but the way that they turned up in the ISL semi final was a coaching master class from James.

Before the ISL semi finals, I said that James was being selfish as a coach by ensuring clean sheets and that he needs to open up his team a little more to score goals. That is exactly what happened in the ISL semi finals as Kerala Blasters blitzed Chennaiyin FC into a catatonic state. You could see the Chennaiyin players reeling on the ground at the Kerala Blasters onslaught.

I will always remember the way in which James turned around his team’s style. I’ve never seen such a drastic change made in such a small time with the same manager and players being available.

In the end, James, I think, did justice to his legend and may well be on his way to adding to that legend as a manager. I won’t be surprised if he gets a chance as a manager in England soon.

Expected Rating**: 6.5 / 10

Final Rating: 8 / 10

I expected James to do well as a goalkeeper but not as a manager. He was decent as a keeper but brilliant as a manager. Together, he exceeded my expectations!

Watch this space for More ISL Marquee Players’ Analyses

So, this was my analysis for my ISL marquee players from the two ISL finalists. Don’t sit back just yet because the next post will be an analysis of the ISL marquee players from the bottom dwellers of the league Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC. Keep watching this space.

**Expected Rating: Rating I expected the player would get at the beginning of the league.

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ISL Final: Efficient Atletico De Kolkata Are the Deserved Champions

ISL Final - Kerala Blasters FC vs. Atletico De Kolkata

Ok, let’s begin with a confession. I’ve never bothered with opening and closing ceremonies and the way I’m doing I doubt I ever will. What I have a tendency never to miss though is finals. I sit here with a stiff drink and even stiffer chips on a very soft seat looking forward to watching the ISL Final.

In terms of team news, it seems that I was wrong about Kerala Blasters not having their 1st and 2nd choice keepers. David James chose to give himself what could be his last ever start in a professional football game.

Other new names in the Kerala Blasters starting line-up were Saumik Dey at left back and Nirmal Chettri at right back. Sandesh Jhingan moved into central defence.

Atletico De Kolkata had to endure a heavy blow before the game as Luis Garcia and Lester Fernandez wasn’t deemed fit enough to start the game. For those two, Arnal Llibert and Kingshuk Debnath came on.

Kerala Blasters Start More Positively

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

David James, Kerala Blasters FC

Unsurprisingly, Kerala Blasters were the more attacking of the two teams even though Atletico De Kolkata started in their 4 – 4 – 2 formation.

Both teams were set up to be attacking but it was really Kerala who looked more comfortable in the opponent’s final third.

Within the first 10 minutes, the most interesting part of the game was that David James wasn’t moving as freely as you would expect him too.

He was moving gingerly and was being very careful with his clearances. I wondered if that would be something that would end up causing problems for Kerala Blasters especially if the ISL Final was to go to penalties.

Two Great Chances – Two Great Examples of Good Defending

Victor Herrero Forcada, Atletico De Kolkata

Victor Herrero Forcada (Polga), Atletico De Kolkata

What was clicking for Kerala Blasters, though, was their attack. In the 11th minute, Victor Herrero Forcada (Pulga) created good space for himself in the 18 yard box.

He got a shot off but it was blocked off. Ishfaq Ahmed was right behind Pulga by creating a wonderful opportunity of his own from outside the box.

He tried for the near post after beating 3 Kolkata players but Apoula Edel proved a match for his shot.

Referee under the Spotlight

Nirmal Chettri, Kerala Blasters FC

Nirmal Chettri, Kerala Blasters FC

In the 25th minute, Atletico De Kolkata showed what they’re capable of. Their midfield set Mohammed Rafi free in the middle of the pitch who showed great skill to control the ball.

However, he couldn’t be the man to win the ISL Final for his team because Chettri came in and fouled him clumsily. It could’ve been a red card but the referee chose a yellow card instead.

I wasn’t entirely sure which card it should’ve been because there were other defenders in line but not ahead. So that was one where interpretation of the rules comes into play.

Atletico De Kolkata and Kerala Blasters Exchange Blows

Iain Hume, Kerala Blasters FC

Iain Hume, Kerala Blasters FC

Atletico De Kolkata’s best chance came as a twin. The ball was crossed from deep on the right flank and Rafi got to the ball too but James had positioned himself flawlessly.

This was followed by a long range shot from Jakub Podany (Pody) towards the near post which James saved too.

Iain Hume came up with a brilliant freekick in the 39th minute. His shot went up and over the wall and towards Edel’s right corner. Fortunately, Edel read the shot and managed to palm it for a corner.

After those chances, the ISL Final became scrappy with both teams giving the ball away in quick succession. That’s how everyone went into the half time break.

Exchange of Blows Continues In the Second Half

Apoula Edel, Atletico De Kolkata

Apoula Edel, Atletico De Kolkata

Atletico De Kolkata started the second half on the front foot. Their aggression seemed to have surprised Kerala Blasters because they got pegged back and made some unforced errors.

However, they recovered very quickly and very effectively. Michael Chopra was set free at an acute angle in Kolkata box and got a ferocious shot off towards the top corner.

However, Edel again stood strong and unconventionally chose to punch it away with one hand.

Kerala Blasters Attack; Atletico De Kolkata Counter

Sandesh Jhingan, Kerala Blasters FC

Sandesh Jhingan, Kerala Blasters FC

Normal service resumed after that as Kerala Blasters continued to dominate. Hume was set free to run at the keeper but I believe his age caught up with him before he could reach Edel. Once the one on one evaporated, there wasn’t much he could do.

However, Kerala Blasters continued to attack looking for that elusive goal while Atletico De Kolkata courted it in the way of counters. On one of those counters, Sandesh Jhingan almost scored another own goal.

Another counter resulted in Arnal being free from an acute angle. Still, he had James on a one on one but couldn’t even work him. His shot went high and wide and James stood there unruffled.

The Red Zone of Fatigue and Mistakes Begins

Michael Chopra, Kerala Blasters FC

Michael Chopra, Kerala Blasters FC

After that flurry of attacks, as fatigue set in, the game became slower after the 60th minute. I believe that it wasn’t just fatigue but also mental jitters of playing in the ISL Final that kept the players from playing freely. They simply became safer and safer as the clock ticked on.

The best chance for Kerala Blasters came in the 79th minute. Kerala Blasters showed some deft interplay and understanding and created a chance for Chopra just inside the box. Chopra received the ball in the centre and passed it to his left to Stephen Pearson. Pearson returned the ball to Chopra inside the box but Chopra’s shot was too tame.

Neither Chopra nor Hume looked tired in the 83rd minute though. Hume rand free on his team’s left flank and cross but his cross was deflected. The ball fell to Chopra who first fought hard and then bedazzled the defender to get his shot off.

He didn’t consider Edel in his equation, though, because Edel pulled off what could’ve been the save of the whole season. The shot was almost point blank. At the same time, Edel managed to somehow palm the ball away onto the post. The ball glanced off the post and went out for a corner.

The ISL Final Winning Goal

Mohammed Rafique, Atletico De Kolkata

Mohammed Rafique, Atletico De Kolkata

After almost 93 minutes of waiting, the ISL Final winning goal finally came from the unlikeliest of sources and the unlikeliest of teams. Mohammed Rafique was the scorer and Atletico De Kolkata were the winner.

I believe the corner was taken by Polga. The corner came from Atletico De Kolkata’s left side and the shortest players on the pitch at that time rose tall and proud to head the ball into the bottom corner on James’ right side.

James dived full stretch but even the legendary James couldn’t have done anything to save that header.

The Mecca of Indian Football Gets the First Indian Super League Trophy

Antonio Lopez Habas, ISL Final Winning Head Coach

Antonio Lopez Habas, ISL Final Winning Head Coach

The funniest thing was that the goal came right at death. There were 3 minutes added by the referee and the goal came when the 93 minutes had already gone by. Rafique just headed himself into the history books with the first goal in the ISL final.

Kerala Blasters looked unbelievably dejected. I didn’t think it would’ve mattered to them so much to win the final. One of the most disappointed players on the pitch was James. He actually went and sat at the bench for a good 15 minutes staring into space.

Colin Falvey had tears in his eyes as did Jhingan and other Kerala Blasters players. Sachin Tendulkar actually came onto the pitch to console his players. He’s a part owner of Kerala Blasters, in case you didn’t know.

The most heartening part of the game was that when the final whistle was blown, Atletico De Kolkata players celebrated for a minute or two and then went to the Kerala Blasters players. You could see them consoling their opponents in the most sporting manner I have ever seen.

Atletico De Kolkata may not play the most beautiful football in the league but they do play it in the most effective way. I may not like their intimidation and physical tactics but today they showed empathy and heart when they went to console their opponents after winning the game. It was good to see and must be appreciated.

The champions of the Indian Super League needed to be special. In the ISL Final, Atletico De Kolkata showed why they are special. I tip my hat to you good sirs. They deserve the win.

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