The inaugural season of Indian Super League (ISL) brought several football stars like Robert Pires, Del Piero and David Trezeguet to Indian shores for the first time.
Keeping up with the trend, this year too ISL clubs have roped in top international footballers, and former Turkish international Tuncay Sanili is among them. FC Pune City announced the signing of the former Stoke City and Fenerbahce striker earlier this week. He is the first Turkish player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League — a feat he achieved against Manchester United in 2004.
33-year-old Tuncay, who has made more than 500 appearances for club and country, spoke to The Sunday Guardian about his upcoming stint with the Pune franchise. Excerpts:
Q. Your Champions League hat trick against Manchester United is one of the talking points of your career. Please take us through that game?
A. It was a very crucial game for us to keep us going in the league. Not all footballers can dream of scoring a hat trick against Manchester United and that was a very special match for me. I was having a very decent run for Fenerbahce and was very confident of putting up a good show against United. That match will always be special for me. That was eleven years ago, but the memories are still fresh. But now I am thinking about my next hat trick and hopefully it will be for FC Pune City.
Q. What are your views on the ISL?
A. I am an experienced player with a Premier League and German League background and have played in Fenerbahce. I now find myself fortunate to be a part of the Indian Super League. The league is gaining tremendous popularity worldwide and is the fourth most watched league in the world. Also, whenever I've had a conversation with the Pune management they have always emphasised on how they plan to win the title this year and I want to play a big role in achieving it. I am sure if the players apply themselves and work together the quality will shine and we will make all the fans proud of the team and when the league begins there is only one thing is in my mind, to become the Champion of the league.
Q .You have played in the best leagues in the world and earned several accolades. Is there anything left to achieve?
A. I have a very good background in the biggest teams and leagues in the world, but I like a challenge and the ISL is a very good challenge for me because I am the first Turkish player to play in Qatar and now I will be the first Turkish player to play in India. I would like to be a pioneer in football.
Q. Apart from seeing other big players joining the league, what prompted you to join ISL?
A. To be honest it's not about the big or small players, it's about the quality of football and the potential the league has. I have always sought new challenges in my life and ISL too is a challenge where I have to prove myself and let the audience know about Tuncay Sanli.
Q. How do feel about being associated with Pune coach David Platt?
A. David Platt is definitely one of the biggest names in Europe, and what he has done for Manchester City is really commendable. David comes with great experience and has been a part of big teams like Manchester City. His expertise and methodology is unique. I remember seeing him managing the England U-21 side when I was a part of the Turkish U-21. We spoke then and I have always found him very approachable and professional.
Q. Would you like to associate with Indian football in the longer run?
A. I surely would want to contribute to Indian football. There is definitely no dearth of talent in India, It is just about driving it the right way to take it forward. Currently, I am just taking one step at a time and preparing myself for the 2nd edition of ISL.
Q. Have you visited India before?
A. No, it's my very first visit to India. India is a place of varied culture and with the kind of response my signing has been able to garner is just so humbling. I hope I can entertain the crowd and put up a good show.