I-league is all set to commence on 30 November but there has not been any announcement of an official broadcaster yet. The league has now been given second status after losing out to cash-rich Indian Super League (ISL).
The league faces a bleak future but for the players there is no way out. They are optimistic and still believe in the tournament. Among them is Sanju Pradhan who thinks that the tournament features some of the best players.
In an interaction with The Sunday Guardian, Sanju talks about the reasons behind joining Punjab FC and why Makan Chote deserves a place in the national side.
Q.You have played for some of the biggest clubs including East Bengal, Mumbai City among others. How is Punjab FC, a club with not so much of history, different? What according to you the club can achieve in the future?
A. This club gives a lot of opportunities to the youth. I like the set-up this club has for the youngsters. It is not easy for youngsters to get opportunities in our country. Big clubs usually go for big players. Players are doing well. They are getting good chance here.
Q. You play as a winger and Punjab is a team that likes to play on the attack. How easy was it for you to slot in?
A. Different teams have different strategies. I will be playing as a mid-field. I might even play as a winger. Our attacking is good because of the players we have. Coaches plan according to the players of the team and we have a great pool of players. Sometimes, we will also have to defend. We can’t attack all the time. Attacking is definitely our first strategy but as the tournament progresses, teams will get to know our style. We will have to keep changing.
Q. You have never won the I-league. Are you looking for a win with this team?
A. It’s a good opportunity for me to win the I-league. The team is looking really good with the kind of bonding it has among the players. We are preparing well. We are prepared for the upcoming tournaments. We are committing a few mistakes on the field, but we will rectify it soon. It’s a great opportunity for me. I have won big tournaments for the national team and ISL. This is only trophy that is missing out in my career. I will share my experience with the team and learn from them at the same time. We will definitely give our best to win the tournament.
Q. What made you sign this club?
A. As a player, I have to play and it can be for any club. I share a close relationship with the team’s coach. I have known him for years. When I got the offer, I saw it as an opportunity. It’s very important for a player to be liked by his coach. What happens is that the player will get a chance to play. I think I will get enough game time. I have played big tournaments but didn’t get much game time. That’s important for me.
Q. Does it bother you that I-league team are not getting as much importance as ISL?
A. It’s sad. No player has made it to the national team from I-league. They have only been selected from ISL. My only request from the national team’s coach is to give some importance to this league as well. There is no dearth of talent in this tournament. We have a lot of talented players in the under-18 and under-19. We have Makan Chote. He has scored goals and he deserves a chance in the national team. He has scored more goals than any other player for this team. This will give a lot of motivation to the players like him.