Fatorda (Goa), March 15 (IANS) ATK coach Antonio Habas said the onus was on him and the support staff to motivate the players and “create the atmosphere” they were missing due to the Indian Super League (ISL) final being held behind closed doors, here on Saturday night.
Spanish midfielder Javi Hernandez scored a brace as ATK defeated Chennaiyin FC 3-1 to grab their third Indian Super League (ISL) title, the most by any team so far, in a riveting summit clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
But due to the coronavirus outbreak, organisers were forced to stage the final bereft of any spectators. There were, however, about 200 people in the stadium as part of the organisers, media, and security inside the stadium besides the players and officials.
Almost every sporting event in the country and most worldwide have been cancelled or postponed due to the deadly virus attack which has so far seen at least 93 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from India, the Ministry of Health and Family welfare said on its official website on Sunday.
“We had to create the atmosphere at the pitch. The attention and the motivation are different and you feel that you need something more, but it’s very logical with the coronavirus problem and you have to support this situation,” Spaniard Habas said at the post match media conference.
ATK and India full back Pritam Kotal said while it was unfortunate to lift the trophy in front of an empty stadium, the desire to become ISL champions for a record third time motivated them.
“We feel very good to be the champions and it’s a significant win in front of an empty stadium. Our only motivation was to become champions,” said the 26-year old at the mixed zone.
ATK are the only team to win the ISL trophy three times (2014, 2016, 2020). Beaten finalists Chennnaiyin have won it twice.
In football crazy Goa, there were fans wearing ATK and Chennaiyin jerseys outside the 18,000-capacity stadium, disappointed not to get a chance to witness their team play the all-important final.
Home team FC Goa, who finished top of the league and were rewarded with AFC Champions League group stage slot, were not playing but a summit clash, few said, is always a sought after encounter they would want to watch.
“We would have loved to be inside the stadium today. I am from Kolkata and I support ATK. They are playing here and I really wanted to back my side. Now you cannot do anything about it. Health is a priority and worldwide, the situation is like this,” a fan said before kickoff near the entry gate of the stadium.
ATK’s Australian striker David Williams had said in Kolkata before departing for Goa that his family would have loved to watch the game live but could not travel to India due to the coronavirus.
At least 93 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported from India, the Ministry of Health and Family welfare said on its official website on Sunday.
With the number of coronavirus positive cases shooting to 31, Maharashtra has emerged as the worst-hit state in the country. Five new cases were detected in Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune district, late on Saturday night, a health official said.