MUMBAI: It's important to have a good squad but equally crucial is that all players in the team are fit and available to play every game in the Indian Super League (ISL), feels Mumbai City FC's marquee player and former Uruguay star Digeo Forlan.
"You play many games in a short period (in ISL) and also travel a lot. That's not easy. Everyone needs to be fit and available for every game. That's important," said the 37-year-old, who had guided his country into the semi-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
"This is a nice schedule, a different type of tournament. Hopefully, many players can play many games, but it's not easy. You get more tired. The way they are doing it, it's new for me. You not only need to have a good squad but also need to have the whole squad injury free.
"You don't know what will happen in football even though you have the best team on paper. I have had that experience in many countries where I played. You play two games in a row and travel a lot. It's important to have a fit squad. In two months you play 14 games," he explained today.
Forlan has replaced French star Nicolas Anelka as Mumbai City FC's marquee player after the former played for the ISL outfit in the first two seasons during which the club did not enter the play-offs.
He had a pre-season training stint with the rest of the squad members in Dubai where the team won two and drew as many games.
"This is my second time in India. I played in Kolkata 2010 (in a friendly fixture between Uruguay and Argentina). We have a mix of good Indian and foreign players.
"I know the club did not qualify for the play offs and that's the challenge - to qualify and do our best," said Forlan, whose spectacular goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup was voted as the best in that competition.
Forlan, with five strikes, was also that edition's joint top scorer. Confirming that he had offers to play elsewhere Forlan, who has turned out for top European club sides such as Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan in the past, said he chose India after having seen some ISL games on television.
"I had (other) offers, but preferred coming here. I had been watching some games before, when I was living in Japan and then in Uruguay. There are many good players and many people inside the stadium.
"It's growing and they are trying to make it an important sport. I know cricket is the main sport, but they are trying to make it a good league. It's not easy but they are trying their best," said the Uruguayan who played recently for his home country's club side Penarol.
Team's head coach Alexandre Borges said the pre-season stint in Dubai had been beneficial.
"We did very well in Dubai. We knew about the players. We propped to them different styles of play and we had the opportunity to see each one. Now we have a clear picture of what we have and can expect from them," said the Costa Rican.
Borges has a small problem on hand in that two of his players (Funai and Udanta Singh) are injured and two other key members - ace India striker Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh - will not be available for the initial part of the ISL.
Chhetri and Amrinder will be busy playing for I-League club Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup semi finals - against Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim - till October 19, while the two injured players are currently out of action.
"First of all we have to wait for those guys in Bengaluru FC. I am crossing my fingers as I have two players injured already what I have now different kind of combination - local and foreign - and I am satisfied. The role that Diego (Forlan) will play is clear for him, no matter which position or combination around him. We are ready." "I am looking forward to playing. About the (Bengaluru FC) players, like the coach said, we have to wait. Two of them are injured. We hope they can come to us as soon as possible. We need everyone (available) for every game," said Forlan.
The marquee player said that the brevity of the ISL, that commences on October 1 and ends on December 18, is what's attractive to active stars like him.
"At the moment the way they are doing the League is nice. For footballers it's a nice league as it is not long, but short, and that's why it's attractive to many players.
"I would try to play my best score goals, try to assist players. I don't know about other players. I am here trying to do my best. I want October to come as quickly as it can. I want to play."
Coach Borges insisted that many a time it's seen in football that the playing eleven which starts a tournament does not remain the same till the end.
"It's impossible that we can play with the same eleven in every game. It does not matter whether the tournament is short or long as most of the time the first eleven in the first game is not the picture (you see) in the final. What I have now are the right guys for the first game.
"We will take it game by game, will see how to give minutes to each player. We now have 20 players on the pitch which is a good amount of players to start the league.
"About the injured guys from (Bengaluru FC), the information we have is that we have to wait for one month for them to be fit. We have to talk with the doctor this evening and see what information they have."