Spreading the beautiful game across different regions of the country is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation’s plan to host the Hero Super Cup in Kerala, where both Hero ISL and Hero I-League teams will come together, is part of it. the-aiff.com is currently in Kozhikode and is following the progress of the clubs in the Hero Super Cup closely in a series of stories.
AIFF Media Team
KOZHIKODE: Odisha FC may have won two trophies this season, of different nature - the Hero Super Cup and the contract extension of Diego Maurício. The Brazilian striker, who won the Hero ISL Golden Boot, extended his contract with the club until 2025, just a few days ahead of the Super Cup. Maurício was the name on every Odisha fan's lips before the tournament began, and it still is after their historic triumph in the final on Tuesday.
After his contract extension, the 31-year-old said he believed he could achieve great things with Odisha. And it only took him 22 days to do exactly that. On a glorious night in the Kozhikode rain, Maurício found the net twice in the first half against Bengaluru FC. He scored or assisted in each of Odisha's five matches in the Super Cup - ending the competition with five goals, two assists, and deservedly, the Hero of the Tournament award.
"For me, it's the best season of my life," remarked an emotional Maurício after the final. "This is history - Odisha are champions. It's a great night and we're very happy. I scored two goals to help the team win, and I'm the best player of the tournament. It's very special."
The 2022-23 Hero ISL season in itself was also historical for Odisha FC as the club qualified for the play-offs for the first time. It, of course, would not have been possible without Maurício's 12 goals. "It's always great to be on the scoresheet because scoring goals isn't easy. I have top teammates behind me who set me up with passes. I work hard, and they help me work hard as well," said the Brazilian.
Their hard work has taken them a long way. In the 2020-21 season, which was Maurício's first at Odisha, they ended up rock bottom of the ISL table with just two wins and 12 points. Seven of their 12 goals were netted by the Brazilian. Next season, Maurício joined Mumbai City FC on a half-year deal, and went on to create history there as well. He scored the first-ever goal by an Indian club in the AFC Champions League Group Stage in Mumbai City's 2-1 victory over Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.
But when Odisha came calling again, it was hard to say no. The talismanic striker returned for his second stint with the Bhubaneswar outfit in 2022, and this time, he was here to stay.
"I love Odisha. I love the city of Bhubaneswar. I love the people. I want to keep going and win more trophies for Odisha FC," said Maurício, for whom there was no better way of celebrating two more years at his beloved club than winning their first-ever silverware.
"Today, I thank God. God has blessed me, my family, my teammates and everything which has made possible the first title in the history of Odisha FC," he added.