Arambagh Krira Sangha captured the imagination of the football fans in Bangladesh after clinching the Independence Cup last month.
Considered underdogs in the domestic arena, the youthful Arambagh got the better of established powerhouses like Abahani Limited and Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club and the big-spending Chittagong Abahani Limited en route to the season ending title.
Many wondered what exactly made Arambagh tick. And with the majority of the club's players in their early 20s, it was all the more surprising.
Step forward Arambagh head coach Maruful Haque, probably one of the best coaches in Bangladesh football right now, and the only Uefa A licence holder in South Asia.
“I've always noticed that the big teams often love ball possession. They pass the ball around casually. And it usually takes a lot of time to take the ball from attack to defence, and score a goal. I wanted to take advantage of this aspect,” said Maruful to Dhaka Tribune.
“Our strength was the counterattack. In training we'd practise scoring a goal on the counterattack in just six seconds. And we'd replicate that in the matches. I'd say this was the secret of our success. And this was only possible due to our high-pressing,” he explained.
What Arambagh lacked in skills and talent compared to the bigger teams, they more than made up for in hard work, said Maruful, who joined the club last season.
“My players worked extremely hard. They followed my strategy and gameplan perfectly. Their fitness and power component were brilliant. That is why this success is perhaps my greatest ever achievement thus far,” said Maruful, whose career title wins include winning the treble with Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra in the 2012-13 season.
“Usually there are national team players in the established teams. But my squad mainly comprised young and hungry players. This title success is really special to me,” he added.
Coaches around the world have their respective recipes for success, and it is no different for Maruful. Ever the innovator in Bangladesh football, the 48-year old relies heavily on the GPS player tracking system.
“They implemented my suggestion by introducing the GPS system for the cost of Tk10 lakhs. The GPS system helped me to know the actual fitness level of the players, whether one is capable of running for 90 minutes or not,” said Maruful.
Also the assistant director of physical education department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Maruful has reportedly received quite a few job offers from some clubs after his latest success. The former Bangladesh coach however, decided to continue his adventure with Arambagh.
Meanwhile, when queried to point out the outstanding talents in his squad following the Independence Cup triumph, Maruful said, “I never do this. Praise one single player whole-heartedly for the team's achievement. Everyone played their part. They are all good followers. They are serious in training and have great team spirit. Hence it was an easy decision for me, to continue with Arambagh for the upcoming season.”