The scoreboard reads thus: Delhi Dynamos FC stands at the third spot on the table with 6 points from 4 matches. They won their opener 3-1 against defending champions Chennaiyin FC but have gone on to draw the rest three.
Souvik Chakraborty, one of Delhi’s more preferred defenders, talks to Millennium Post about ISL, Delhi Dynamos, Italian coach Gianluca Zambrotta and much more. Excerpts:
Q: How does it feel to be playing for Delhi Dynamos for the third straight year?
A: It feels good. We’ve had a good run in the past years and are hoping to do well this season too.
Q: What exactly happened in the first half of the match against Mumbai City FC on Tuesday when Mumbai scored two goals?
A: We made defensive mistakes that cost us. We didn’t concentrate enough and that’s why we let in the three goals. We have to improve on that in the future for good result.
Q: Sony Norde was particularly very troubling?
A: We all know how good Norde is. I’ve already played with him for two years (at Mohun Bagan in I-League) and I know what his capabilities are. We’ve played against all tough teams and it’s only going to be tougher ahead so we will try to do better. In the next game that we’ll play in Kolkata against Atletico de Kolkata, we’ll try to get three points and that will boost our confidence.
Q: How will you feel playing in Kolkata?
A: Playing in Kolkata is almost like playing at home. This is one game where there are more expectations because family and relatives come to see the game. We’ll 100 percent try to win the game and we’ve won against them last year. We’ve never lost against Kolkata so let’s see.
Q: You went for Manchester United Premier Cup when you were just 15 years old, how was it? Was there something specific that you learnt there?
A: We actually went for only 10 days so we didn’t really get much time to learn anything. But now, if such opportunities are given to players of u-13 and u-15 and they get to stay with them, get the kind of nutrition and food they get, that will make a lot of difference. Their techniques and tactics, all are different. We don’t get that kind of facilities here.
Q: What do you think is required for the improvement in the standard of Indian football?
A: It’s improving now. With ISL coming in the picture and their mandatory grassroot level work going on, the improvement will come. We also get pre-season training in foreign conditions, so you’ll see the changes in 5-6 years.
Q: Early in your career, you switched from Mohun Bagan to Air India in search of more playing time, how much growth and boost did it bring for you?
A: When I got playing time in Air India and United Sports Club, my confidence grew. Then when I played for Mohun Bagan again and in ISL, I had faith <g data-gr-id="152">upon</g> myself. When you get more playing time and play with people on the ground, it gives you an inner boost.
Q: You play as an attacking midfielder but at Delhi, you’ve been playing left-back or right-back. How was the transformation like?
A: It was definitely difficult. I’ve been playing in the midfield since childhood and suddenly just last year, Roberto Carlos made me play right-back. They helped me a lot and gave me confidence. I kept getting playing time and I felt confident. The change went well last year, this year we’ve only started so let’s see. I will try my best to perform even better.
Q: What do you enjoy more, playing as a midfielder or defender?
A: Playing time. I look for more and more time on the field because that brings fitness and confidence to a good level and I aim to make it to the national squad so playing a lot is important.
Q: You’ve played under three different coaches at Delhi. How has your experience been under all three of them?
A: First season the coach was a Belgian and his techniques were different than Carlos sir, who liked his players to stick more with the ball.
With Zambrotta is different again because his tactics are new. There’s a lot to learn. Zambrotta is wonderful for juniors. He individually tells us what’s going right and what’s wrong after every match and it’s extremely good for improvement.
Q: Both Carlos and Zambrotta have been defenders and attacking backs in their playing days, how does that help?
A: Carlos sir was a defender and probably he saw something in me because of which he changed my position. After the matches he used to tell how to maintain the line and mark players. These tips help a lot. Even Zambrotta does that.
Also, they were both right wing-back and left wing-back so they are able to tell me where I am going wrong and I try to improve with the help of their observations.
Q: Coming back to Tuesday’s game, it looked like you were marking Norde in the second half. Was that something you chose to do because you know his play or Zambrotta asked you too?
A: Definitely, sir asked me to because I know he’s the main danger man. I have played with him for two years and I know he can make a difference any time.
Q: So, do you think he was the difference for Mumbai in the game?
A: He was and it was also our own mistakes. We made little positioning errors and that let the goals happen. Even Norde’s goal happened because of our defensive lapse.
Q: What are your views about the refereeing errors in the game against Mumbai City FC?
A: Refereeing, can both go for or against you. They’re also humans and mistakes do happen. I haven’t yet seen the penalty video and so I can’t really comment upon that.
Q: On a little fun side, is Zambrotta very hard and serious with you guys like he generally looks to be or he’s relaxed otherwise?
A: No, he’s cool. He just looks like
that. During practice he’s serious yes. Like Carlos was very funny but
Zambrotta is serious during practice but not very strict.
Q: Do you find it difficult to communicate with him because of <g data-gr-id="149">language</g> barrier?
A: No. He’s able to explain and there’s always Mario, our manager, who translates for us as well. So, there’s no problem.
Q: What do you have to say about the proposed merger plan of the AIFF?
A: I think if that happens, I believe it will be good for Indian football. There will be more teams and due to divisions, more players will get a chance to play. Also, I-League, as planned, will be telecasted so that will help.
Q: Why do you think many I-League clubs, including your club Mohun Bagan, are against the merger?
A: I don’t know much so I shouldn’t really comment on that. But from what I think, the I-League clubs have sponsorship issues so if they’re promoted properly, post the merger, that will get the sponsors.
Q: Do you think without relegation-promotion, which is currently proposed, the lower division clubs will get sponsors?
A: As of now, since ISL and I-League happen <g data-gr-id="155">on</g> different times, they get their individual sponsors but when after the merger, all divisions will be played simultaneously and if it’s telecasted properly, I don’t think sponsorship should be an issue. I don’t know a lot about it but from all I’ve heard, I believe they’re planning well and it should help develop the Indian football.
Q: Do you think that Indian football, for all these years, has suffered because the I-League clubs do not have a proper structure in place?
A: Definitely! Grassroot level work is a must but that doesn’t happen properly. Europe, develops players from a very young age. Even when we went to Australia for DDFC for training, we saw that their structure is good, something that we don’t have here. This is what ISL was conceived for. Grassroot work is mandatory for ISL clubs which is a problem with I-League clubs. All clubs do not have good junior wings. It has been improving since past 2-3 years, but the system wasn’t well executed before.
Q: Lastly, what do you have to say about the quality of play in ISL?
A: From what I feel, Indian players weren’t very confident in the first year. But then gradually, the confidence of the Indian players increased and we definitely did a better job in the second season. Talking about this season, it has just begun and as the tournament will intensify, so will the performance. Since the pre-season time is less, every team settles down after 4-5 matches and only then, they are able to get to their top form. I believe it will get better.