How Sergio Lobera’s loyalty to his style of football has turned Odisha into ISL title contenders

Under the leadership of coach Sergio Lobera, Odisha FC is going all out in the race for the ISL title this season. With 32 points from 16 matches, they are in first place at the time of publishing, and face a big test on Thursday, with playoff chasers East Bengal coming to the city. They had played exactly a month earlier with the same opponents at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, in fact, but in very different circumstances. That was the 2024 Super Cup final, a match that featured goals, extra time and plenty of drama as East Bengal won their first trophy in 12 years. However, even in defeat, Odisha exemplified Lobera’s football philosophy.

Sergio Lobera

The winner that day, Clint Silva, came from a mistake by Narendra Gehlot as he was playing from behind. At that stage of the match – 111 minutes on the clock – the mistake could have been avoided by going straight at the goalkeeper, but for Sergio Lobera, it would have been a contradiction of everything he believed in. Of course, the mistake was preventable but Lobera has no problem with the way the game played out. In fact, he is proud that his players stuck to his style, even if it resulted in a goal.


“I believe in this kind of football. We need to stay faithful to our style of play. And I think our players enjoy playing this style of football. I think that’s the key to achieving success.” That’s the way, that’s the way to win trophies.” Lobera told ESPN in Bhubaneswar a few days ago.

“We reached the [Super Cup] final after wins against FC Goa and Mumbai City. A mistake is possible, but I tell my players to continue playing like this. Because that is the only way to improve. If You are afraid of mistakes and thinking about future activities during the game, you are far away from achieving something important for the team,” he said.

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His clarity of thinking and positive approach towards football is nothing new. His methods have a proven track record in this country with clubs like FC Goa and Mumbai City FC, where he won trophies, and also helped in the overall development of Indian footballers. And now Odisha is a contender for the title.

“I’m very happy with them, not only as players but also as professionals,” Lobera says of his star forwards Diego Mauricio (top) and Roy Krishna. Adimages Pvt Ltd
“I told them I’m proud. It’s a crazy calendar for us, three competitions in seven days, playing three games. What the players are doing is amazing. Losing a game with 10 players on the field and then we make a “The withdrawal pushed the match into extra time,” Lobera said of his talks with the players. The players are doing amazing work. We reached the final, we are alive in the AFC Cup and we are doing very well in the ISL.” A crushing defeat in the final.

Winning trophies has always been a priority for Lobera, but he also cares about how he wins them. He believes in playing attractive football, he wants his supporters to be happy when they watch his teams. This philosophy has become so ingrained in him that he takes it as his personal responsibility towards the game.

“…Because we need to take care of football. I think every year, we are losing people who love football. I am not talking about India but all over the world. People Not enjoying watching the game. People enjoy it when their team wins three points or a trophy. It is important when supporters go to the stadium and enjoy the game. Enjoy the 90 minutes, not Just the end of the game,” he said.

“Working with Barcelona was my first experience as a professional, my education in football started there. I believe in this kind of football because it is possible to win and also have fun. When I came to India and decided , then maybe people thought ‘This is crazy, it’s impossible to win playing like this’. In India, we won trophies. That’s my way of football; the supporters need to enjoy. I also think that as a coach, The belief you have in form has to be passed on to the players,” he added.

In last year’s Super Cup final, Odisha defeated Bengaluru FC to win their first trophy since their formation. The plan this year was to go up a notch and compete seriously for the League Shield and ISL title. Who better to handle the responsibility than Lobera, who won an ISL Shield title (and later an ISL Cup) with Goa and Mumbai.

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Odisha have played trademark Lobera-ball throughout the season and remain strong contenders for the title. Adimages Pvt Ltd
“I love big challenges. And I knew it was a big challenge to come to Odisha and win trophies. I know it’s always special to win trophies for a club that has never won them before. I played for FC Goa Won the first trophies and the city of Mumbai. “With Odisha, I felt it was possible to achieve something significant,” Lobera said.

The Super Cup final didn’t go their way, but the club is certainly going in the right direction. However, things could still go wrong as they enter a decisive period in their season. Now!

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