Having failed to go past the group stages in the past two seasons, the Highlanders are determined to make it to the knockouts in the third season of the Indian Super League. In comes the 63 year old Portugese Head Coach Nelo Vingada, who has managed national teams of Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan etc and a host of clubs in Asia and Europe.  He last managed the Portugese Primeira League club CS Maritimo. Nicknamed ‘The Professor’, Vingada has led Egyptian football club Zamalek FC to the title without losing a single game in the 2003-04 season. He had also worked under Carlos Queiroz, the current manager of the Iran National Team for the Portugal U-20 team that finished third in the U-20 World Cup. When Queiroz becam the Real Madrid manager in 2003, he proposed Vingada as his assistant manager but the proposition was not accepted by the club.

The Highlanders have also managed to secure the services of Didier Zokora , their marquee player, the Ivory Coast footballer who is the most capped player for his national side. A defensive midfielder, Zokora played for clubs like Tottenham Hotspurs, Sevilla, Saint-Etienne, Racing Genk etc in a career spanning more than 15 years. He played for FC Pune City during their 2015 campaign of ISL and played 13 matches for the Stallions.

The Easterners ended their first season at the bottom of the table. However, last year they fared better by finishing in the top five. With the arrivals of Didier Zokora from FC Pune City, his teammate and former Sevilla player Romaric, Mailson Alves from Chennaiyin, Brazilian center back and former Chelsea player Gustavo Lazzaretti, Brazilian goalkeeper Wellington Lima, Japanese players Robert Cullen and Katsumi Yusa, Uruguayan footballers Emiliano Alfaro and Sasha Alexander and the veteran Indian Goalkeeper Subrata Pal, the Highlanders are a force to reckon with.

They have also retained players like Nicolas Velez, goalkeeper Rehenesh TP,Robin Gurung, Reagan Singh, Holicharan Narzary, Seityasen Singh etc.

The John Abraham owned franchisee will begin their campaign with home games against the Kerala Blasters and FC Goa before going on the road to Mumbai, Pune and Delhi. They come back home again to face Chennaiyin FC, Atletico de Kolkata and Mumbai City FC before going on a visit to FC Goa and Atletico. After hosting FC Pune City they will move to Chennai for the game against the Machans before coming back home again for their final home game of the league stage, against FC Pune City. They will visit Cochin for their final away game of the league against the Blasters.

Interestingly, the teams that have hosted the inaugural games of each season of ISL have been the winners of the corresponding season. Wait and watch whether the team that represents the 8 eastern states of India will maintain that history and lift the third edition of the Indian Super League.



Goalkeepers: Lalthuammawia Ralte, Rehenesh TP, Gennaro Bracigliano

Defenders: Miguel Garcia, Robin Gurung, Cédric Hengbart, Aiborlang Khongjee, Yumnam Raju, Zohmingliana Ralte, Reagan Singh, Marlangki Suting

Midfielders: Bruno Herrero Arias, Alen Deory, Boithang Haokip, Siam Hanghal, Kondwani Mtonga, Sanju Pradhan, Simão Sabrosa, Silas, Seityasen Singh

Forwards: Diomansy Kamara, Holicharan Narzary, Nicolás Vélez, Francis Dadzie, Boubacar Sanogo

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