After three successful seasons with I-league side Bengaluru FC, Siam Hanghal signed for reigning Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2016 season. The 23-year-old from Manipur has so far featured from the bench in the second half in both games as an impact substitute.
We caught up with the Chennaiyin midfielder ahead of their next game for a brief chat.
You had your beginnings at the Tata Football Academy (Tata Football Academy). We've seen a lot of footballers who’ve come from there to be very promising. What are some of the things they help you with?
When we start our footballing at TFA, they give us the basics, tell us about the environment of football, educate us. So in many ways, it has helped us in terms of football and education, especially after we finish and get into a professional career.
We've seen you play many positions, right wing, central midfield. What's your favourite position though?
It actually depends on the game situation for me. Most of the time I've been playing central midfield. In TFA, I was selected as a striker in the juniors. So I did well after I joined TFA in my first two months. I was in the junior team there for two years. So after the striker position, the coach told me to play on the right wing. After that, I started playing more as right wing, central midfielder, left wing. Ever since I turned professional, I like playing in this position of central midfielder.
And what's the reason for that?
I like it because you’re involved in both defensive and attacking plays.
Was there any player you tried to copy/emulate growing up?
Actually, I was a big fan of Steven Gerrard. Steven Gerrard is like he's a fighter, he never gives up. So, I like his attitude and game awareness.
So considering you are a Gerrard and Liverpool fan, what's it like being with John Arne Riise?
When he first signed, I was like, “Oh my god! I'm going to play with my childhood hero,” so I was very happy and looking forward to it. Riise was one of the biggest players in the Premier League and also in Italy, so I was very happy and was looking forward to playing alongside him and learning something from him.
You had three good winning seasons with Bengaluru FC (BFC) where you won two I-league titles and the Federation Cup. Tell us about that spell of yours.
We started from scratch, you know. As you know, when clubs are started, they usually sign players who've not played much before or been rejected. So in the beginning, even the coach was not interacting much and we didn't also have much confidence as everybody was new.
After finishing pre-season, our first match we played Mohun Bagan, we drew against them. After that, slowly, we gained confidence. It was a very good experience because the coach was good, the environment was good.
And the players, from the seniors to juniors, we gave respect to each other. It was a very good experience, the three years, because we worked very hard for it.
The first season there, you featured prominently. However, in seasons two and three you had reduced appearances. Why did that happen?
Actually, I don't know because even the coach told me that my performance was the same, after all, it's the coach’s decision.
I went to play in the Asian games that season and when I was gone, they put another player in my position. That I think was one of the reasons and in the third season also, the same thing happened, and I went to play for NorthEast. During that time they started the pre-season, fixed the places and were quite comfortable about it.
What's the best bit of advice that you've got and who gave it to you?
Before I left BFC, coach Ashley (Ashley Westwood, coach of Bengaluru FC 2013-2016) told me that I was now a full-grown player. That I had to just maintain my standard, never give up and think about the positive things, whether I’m playing or not. That I have to fight for my position.