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In conversation with — florent malouda

 Abreshmina S Quadri |  2016-11-11 00:20:19.0  |  New Delhi

In conversation with — florent malouda

How is India treating you for the second time?

Except for the smog, everything is perfect.

How did the smog affect your practice and the subsequent match?

When we came back from Goa, it was very difficult, difficult to breath. We had to adjust the sessions and take some precautions but by the time the game happened, it was comparatively much relaxed so it didn't really affect the game.

How different and difficult is ISL from the leagues in the rest of the world?

I have never been a part of a league like ISL. It is different but not very difficult. It feels more like a tournament. You have tournaments outside where the time is short — where you have pre-season and 3-4 months of play. It is interesting for me personally because I could play in two different countries last year and have more break. It helped me discover new cultures, so it's good. But for a league, it's too short to attract and maintain top players.

What is Zambrotta's philosophy?

He wants to develop team spirit first and foremost. He tries to work on the defensive line and works to involve everyone in good positioning. From there he works on the movements so in training, we repeat moves and because of that, everybody is aware of each other's positions defensively and offensively. It is very demanding tactically and physically but he's trying to put the intensity you'll find in the games into training. He's very demanding in training because like a lot of modern managers, he thinks that the way you train, you perform on the pitch. He wants us to perform in the trainings and asks everyone to give 100 per cent to the team. Of course, he has the Italian touch to his tactics.

What's the specific Italian touch you're talking about?

It's a lot about concentration when we have the ball or we lose the ball, he likes that none of us are caught out of position. So, everybody from the striker to the goalkeeper is involved in the process of transition.

Is the demanding nature of the training that helps you people combine on the pitch?

Absolutely! It's very important to have a cohesion in the team where everyone understands each other and each other's positioning. A lot of times you have to rotate and during pre-season we practiced the tactics and basics a lot. So, everyone is on the same level and we speak the same language on the pitch. I think we are beginning to get rewards for all the hard work.

How would you describe the growth in your own performance?

For me it's the same process like you can't plant a seed and get the fruit on the same day. Like I am involved in building the team also. In moments of high pressure, I need to deliver and be influential first before being visible in the offence. I get my confidence from the training sessions. What you say last night (Wednesday) is my normal level but I need a well-settled and organised team for that. If the team loses confidence, it's difficult for me to be an asset to the team. We have a young squad but it's important to have continuity. We did well in the pre-season but to do the same in ISL we needed results and confidence. This is why for a player like me, I cannot stay focussed on just myself. I need the team to do well first and then look at myself. My job is not only to score goals but be involved in the build up and assist the strikers. Then when the things go extra well, you'll see me in action like I did against Chennaiyin yesterday (Wednesday).

How did you manage to break the Chennaiyin defence?

Of course, the last year's experience helped. It's always difficult to play against Chennai. This year they shuffled players like they took Mulder and Riise but they are the champions and I respect them a lot. The technical staff also helped us a lot. It all just worked because we were disciplined and believed in that. At the end, you have to take your chances. We have a good positioning game and once we score, we are more in control. We need to keep up the level.

How do you see the growth of the Indian players?

Everyone is different so you can't compare Indian players with foreigners but what I see from last season is we have younger players and there is so much more talent. The young players who have got a chance really grab it. Like we have Milan Singh who didn't play last year but this year, he's been an essential part of our squad and he feels confident. Then you have players like Souvik who aren't playing in their original position but adjust so well. That is talent and he's improved from last season and feels more confident. It is good for them that they are playing high intensity games. It is one of the positive effects of ISL. When they earlier arrived they were shy and under-confident but now they are more confident and display their full potential. It's good and I hope more young players come in. Like Bengaluru FC played on the high level, it's good. The players need to play on the high level to get better.

Do you intent to stay in Delhi next year as well?

I can't exactly say anything right now. We have a good relationship and we'll sit and talk about it someday but as of now, the focus is this season. It's been good so far and as far as I feel useful and I can bring something to the project, I want to be a part of it otherwise no.

How would you rate your chances of winning the title?

We first need to reach the play-offs as soon as possible, that's my motivation. I don't want to have any regrets. We have to perform well and get points. We have to remain humble and I don't want to talk about the final. In football, the tides change very quickly and I'm very careful about that.

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