Confident Ozone keen to soar to a new zone

Confident Ozone keen to soar to a new zone

Since 2013, Bengaluru FC have been synonymous with the changing football culture in the city with great success and popularity among enthusiasts. One team that is keen to reach that status is Ozone FC.

While BFC caught the imagination of many after lifting the I-League in their debut season, at a much lower level, Ozone were crowned champions of the BDFA Super Division in 2015, barely a month after their inception.

What followed for Ozone was an unsuccessful attempt to enter the upper echelons -- I-League -- as they endured a lacklustre outing in the second division of tournament in 2016-17 under Dutchman Bert Zuurman.

Zuurman then left the club by mutual agreement in 2017 and David Booth was tasked with the club's long-term ambition of competing in the I-League.

The widely-travelled and experienced Englishman, who has tasted reasonable success with Mumbai FC and Mahindra United in the past, was quick to make a solid impression as his side sauntered to their second Super Division title with an all-win record this season.

Ten wins in 10 games now hands Ozone another stint in the I-League second division and Booth wants to ensure they grab the opportunity with both hands but insists that it will not be a walk in the park.

"With every passing year, the competition gets harder. Clubs keep striving to get better and turn up better prepared. A lot of the teams have similar ambitions to ours and that makes it all the more difficult. But for me, I will just be concentrating on what my boys do and how well they perform," affirmed Booth.

In Group B of the 18-team league alongside Madhya Bharat SC, FC Goa (reserves), Kerala Blasters (reserves), Fateh Hyderabad AFC and FC Kerala, it will be a tough journey for the young side but having won the Super Division in the manner that they did, it will be hard to write off their chances.

Booth said playing the BDFA league aided him greatly in building the squad and preparing them for the massive undertaking that lay ahead.

"In terms of developing the team, participating in the local league was great for us. It really helped the team bond and the players got a chance to gel with each other. Also, we got a chance to play plenty of games in a short while and not losing during that phase will do a world of good for the players' confidence.

"We may be a young squad that is short on experience but they are strong and willing lads. I'd say that the first couple of games will be key. That is what will define our season," he added on the challenges his squad could face.

Booth's men not only scored plenty, but also kept it tight at the back, netting 33 times and conceding just six. The coach revealed there was no special style of play that he employs and it all boils down to optimum utilisation of resources.

"I won't lie to you and say that we play like a Barcelona or Tottenham (Hotspur). Our playing style is no different from others as we push to create the best opportunities. Any club will define their playing style based on the players they have at their disposal. It is no different from what we do."

Brazilian striker Robert De Souza Ribiero was prolific in the Super Division, scoring 13 goals for his side and with burly Nigerian centre-back Chika Wali, Booth is content with his squad and doesn't indicate any further imports.

"Our Brazilian striker (De Souza) is a great asset. He has really mingled well with the rest of the squad and is settled. With Chika, he's been here a while and is a fantastic motivator for the younger players and the squad in general. I feel fortunate to have the services of such players," said Booth.

For Ozone, the stern test of the second division will be a completely different ball game and for a coach who hasn't lost a game since taking over, the thought of defeat is something that he doesn't want to ponder about. In addition, Booth has set a goal and is desperate to achieve it.

"I don't like losing. It's as simple as that. That is the mindset I have come in with and will instill it through the team. I am completely focused on taking this team to the I-League and that is what my total focus is on. That will be our immediate target. Only once we achieve that will we think about what next to do."

With the Santosh Trophy set to be held around the same time as the I-League second division, there is no doubt that the fixtures will be taxing on the players.

There will be an added concern of close to seven of his players required to attend the Karnataka camp but Booth voiced that he prefers them to train with his squad and eventually link up with their state-mates.

"The ideal situation will be if we could train together as a team and then the players leave for their state duty. But that is a decision we will need to discuss with the Karnataka State Football Association (KSFA)."

The Super Division victory has certainly raised the stock of Ozone FC and a successful second division campaign will further enhance their reputation as they build an image for themselves.

Under the watchful eye of the pragmatic Booth, it is likely that there is only one trajectory the club can take, and that is upward.

 

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