Kolkata: Former Spanish goalkeeper Jose Francisco Molina, who courageously fought cancer during his playing days, is here as head coach to inspire Atletico de Kolkata win a second Indian Super League title.
“Your past experience always helps you in your life. I’ve gone through a difficult phase and overcome it. Hopefully I inspire the team to win again,” the ATK head coach told reporters during their jersey unveiling for the third edition of ISL today.
The former Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper, who was detected with testicular cancer during his playing days, succeeded a hugely successful Antonio Lopez Habas under whom ATK won the inaugural ISL edition and finished runners-up to Chennayin FC last season.
“Yes, there will be pressure but that’s your role as a coach. I want to make ATK the strongest team in the league. I have seen footage of some of the players and will learn about them more during our month-long camp in Madrid from August 22.”
The Kolkata franchise co-owned by former India captain Sourav Ganguly has gone for a major overhaul retaining four foreigners (Iain Hume, Tiri, Sameehg Doutie and Ofentse Nato) and two Indians — Arnab Mondal and Jewel Raja.
“The idea is to strike a balance between the attack and the defence. But the core of the team is the same,” the 45-year-old said.
Interestingly this was Molina’s second visit to the city as he was here as the coach of Hong Kong’s club Kitchee, and faced East Bengal twice in the AFC Cup with the games ending in a 2-2 (at home) and 1-1 (away) draw as they had made a last eight finish in the AFC Cup last season.
As a player, he went on to win the La Liga and Copa Del Rey titles with Atletico de Madrid in their famous 1995-96 season before joining Deportivo La Coruna with whom he once again lifted the Copa Del Rey trophy. He was awarded the best goalkeeper award for the lowest goals to games ratio in La Liga back in 1996. He made nine appearances for the Spanish national team and was part of the 1998 World Cup and two European Championships of 1996 and 2000. During his playing career, Molina was detected with testicular cancer during his stint with Deportivo and after undergoing an operation in June 2001 the goalkeeper suffered from a recurrence which forced him to temporarily retire. However, he made miraculous recovery to rejoin his team in a Champions League clash with Juventus.