Calcutta: For 57-year-old Antonio Lopez Habas, the coaching stint with Atletico de Kolkata will be his first in Asia. Having coached in Europe, Africa and South America, the strictly professional Habas sees this as another opportunity to add variety to his career and to build up something new.
Born in Pozoblanco in southern Spain, Habas’s career as a La Liga player came to a premature end owing to a knee injury. He turned to coaching in the early 1990s. He has been in charge of the Bolivian national team, and coached them during the 1994 USA World Cup. Among the clubs he has coached are Valencia and Celta Vigo.
So what attracted him to India? “This is the first time I will coach in Asia and that in itself is a challenge,” Habas told The Telegraph. “And I am also improving my English,” he laughed.
The veteran coach says coaching Atletico de Kolkata will be a task that he will enjoy. “I am a professional, so I can’t say how long I will be with the team. There can be no set time limit. But I am eager to create a group of people who will be able to make this venture a success and I want to be a big part of that. I definitely want to enjoy this stint and give my best,” he said.
Habas admitted that he has little idea about Indian footballers. “I really don’t have enough information right now,” he said.
But one information that he has is the fact that co-owner Sourav Ganguly is an iconic sportsperson. “I know he is a great cricketer. I had spent enough days in South Africa to know about cricket. But in Europe we really don’t see much of the sport,” he said. Asked if he has ever seen Sourav play, he answered in the negative.
Habas, however, is happy to have Jose Ramirez Barreto in his corner as assistant coach. The hugely popular footballer will be taking baby steps in a new career, but for Habas, he will be the source of information regarding local footballers, infrastructure and culture.