Full name: Chennaiyin Football Club
Nickname(s): Marina Machans
Founded: 2014; 3 years ago
Ground: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai “Marina Arena”
Owner: Abhishek Bachchan, MS Dhoni, Vita Dani
Manager: John Gregory
The story so far…
Here’s a random fact. The Chennai franchise was initially going to be headed up by Sunil Gavaskar, yet another legendary Indian cricketer who was going to move his attention over to football. However, his role for the Indian Cricket Board meant this never happened. Instead, then India captain MS Dhoni became a co-owner. ISL and cricket, the links are there forever.
Chennaiyin, like many ISL sides, was formed in 2014 and their first Head Coach was the former Italian international defender Marco Materazzi, a World Cup winner back in 2006 but probably best known for headbutting Zinedine Zidane.
Their first ever match ended in victory with Balwant Singh and the former Manchester City and Brazil star Elano scoring the goals – Elano becoming the first ever marquee player to score in ISL history. Incredibly, in the November of their first season, the club persuaded Alessandro Nesta, one of the finest defenders of all-time, out of retirement to play the rest of the campaign. Chennaiyin managed to finish in 2nd place, meaning they were in the playoff semi-finals. The semi-final against Kerala Blasters will be remembered for years. Kerala won the first leg 3-0 and, in amazing fashion, Chennaiyin led 3-0 in the second leg to take the game into extra-time. Unfortunately for the club, Blasters scored once more to reach the final, where they lost to ATK.
The following season Materazzi remained in charge. After a shocking start, Elano managed to drag the team up the table to end the regular season in 3rd place and qualify for the semi-finals once again. The bad start was a distant memory as they triumphed over FC Goa in the final 3-2.
In 2016 Chennaiyin signed ex-Liverpool player John Arne Riise as their marquee player as they aimed to become the first ISL side to retain the title. However, it was a poor season for the club as they finished a disappointing 7th. Materazzi parted company with Chennaiyin at the end of the season, and it was a sad way to end an excellent spell in charge.
The club turned to former Aston Villa manager John Gregory to replace the Italian. With the draft system in place, the squad has been massively overhauled and they spent the 2017 preseason in Thailand, preparing to recover from the shock of their 2016 performance.
Chennaiyin FC wear an all-blue kit and the team’s logo is the Dhrishti Bommai, a representation of chasing away negativity and preserving positivity in the Tamil culture
The fans of Chennaiyin are known as the “Supermachans”. There are two active supporters’ groups – the B-Stand Blues and the Supermachans, though the fans are known as a whole by the latter name. The club has managed to pull in a consistent average of 22,000 (3rd highest in the ISL) over the last three seasons.
Chances this season…
Chennaiyin appear to have recruited wisely this season, using their foreign quote to strengthen the defence and midfield by signing the likes of Mailson Alves and Henrique Sereno as well as former Brighton & Hove Albion right-back Inigo Calderon. Alves was part of the Chennaiyin side that won ISL in 2015.
In midfield, Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto and Spaniard Jaime Gavilan are two excellent signings – Augusto’s all-action style will provide energy allowing Gavilan to create. They also can call on Rene Mihelic to provide an inventive spark.
It is in the attacking department where Chennaiyin seem to conflict with Gregory’s traditional English style as a coach. They are lacking height and power in the forward line, with Nigerian striker Jude Nworuh is only 5ft 7.
It is also worth keeping a close eye on a player who starred for India in the recent AFC U23 qualifiers. Germanpreet Singh is a central midfielder who has also impressed India boss Stephen Constantine.
With the strength in defence, Chennaiyin will be a tough nut to crack for many sides but their lack of attacking threat might see them struggling to break teams down themselves. John Gregory is not a manager that will excite the fans with his style of play, but you can expect Chennaiyin to be well organised if not spectacular. I would suggest they will finish outside the playoffs this season, but their ability to take points off some of the more attacking sides will mean they do still have some influence over who wins ISL 4.