ISL 2016: Indian players need to believe in themselves, says Diego Forlan
Speaking ahead of the first leg of Mumbai’s semifinal against Atletico de Kolkata in the ‘City of Joy’, Forlan said Mumbai’s position in the league stage does not matter anymore as he called the knockout stages a different tournament altogether.
Alexandre Guimaraes’s team finished top of the league stages and conceded by far the fewest goals in the league. Forlan has been their top scorer with five goals, including a hat-trick against Kerala Blasters.
He said, “The team is playing well and finishing top of the league gives us confidence, but from now on, it is completely different.”
The Uruguayan said he knew some Atletico de Kolkata players from his time playing in Spain and that he would pass his knowledge on to the youngsters in the Mumbai team. The likes of Javi Lara and Borja Fernandez did play in La Liga at the time that Forlan had played, with Villareal and Atletico Madrid.
The Rojiblancos are part owners of the Kolkata side, but Forlan said that as a professional, his duty would be to play well for Mumbai and not think of his former employers.
Forlan said that Kolkata would not be affected by playing at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, a much smaller venue than the Salt Lake Stadium which was their home ground for the first two seasons. “Even in Mumbai, our home ground is small, but we love it. As long as the pitch is good and there is a decent atmosphere, it is fine.”
Lack of Belief
Forlan said that it was the lack of self-confidence that was preventing players from India and Japan to become the best footballers they possibly could. The Uruguayan legend played for Cerezo Osaka in the 2014-15 J-League season and said that the two leagues were similar in many aspects but still had a lot of work to do. Forlan said, “The games in Japan are played at a good level, at a good pace. They need to get more experienced players and coaches to come there and develop the young players.”
He said the ISL was heading towards its goals but there was work to be done, Forlan said, “A lot of Indian players are more talented that a few guys playing in Europe. But they give the opposition too much respect.”
Uruguay always fought, irrespective of stature
The striker drew parallels between the Uruguayan teams he played for and the Japanese and Indian clubs. The 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner said that once teams get on the pitch, the ability should not matter: “It is okay for other players to be better than you. You have to be intelligent and ensure that your strengths expose the opposition’s weaknesses.”
Uruguay’s long-standing manager Oscar Tabarez was in for extreme praise from the star striker. In an era when managers sometimes struggle to last even a few months, El Maestro has hung on to the job for the last ten years.
Forlan said it helped him that he promoted players from the age groups and most important, got the result, “Without results, managers are nothing. With Tabarez, we’ve qualified for two World Cups, made the semifinal in one of them and won the Copa America. So that surely helped him hugely.”
Best Indian Players
Forlan was asked to pick the best Indian players in each position and his picks were heavily skewed in favour of his own team, and picked Amrinder Singh as the best goalkeeper in India.
He said, “Amrinder, since he has come in, has been very important. He hasn’t conceded a single goal this season and that has allowed us to play an extra foreign outfield player.”
Anwar Ali and Pronay Halder were the legendary striker’s picks in defence and midfield. He said that Anwar used all his experience and learnt a lot from Lucian Goian, the Romanian who has statistically been the best defender in the league this season.
Halder, on the other hand, was injured very early in the season. Halder and Sehnaj Singh have impressed the team’s marquee signing, “Pronay, unfortunately, got injured early on but him and Sehnaj were very impressive. I also like Sehnaj’s versatility.”
Jeje Lalpekhlua and CK Vineeth were reserved for special praise and Forlan said, “Obviously Sunil is there, but Jeje is very good. He is strong, holds the ball up well and finishes well. You have also seen the impact Vineeth has had with Kerala.”
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