Shillong Lajong surprised everyone last month by signing Portuguese U-19 international Edinho Junior on loan from English club Blackburn Rovers. Edinho, whose father Edon Amaral Neto was a Brazilian footballer, is only 19, but will add plenty of quality to both Lajong and the I-League.
Having shared the dressing room with Portugal legend Nuno Gomes at Blackburn, Edinho’s presence will certainly lift the entire Lajong squad ahead of their battle for survival. The striker is set to make his I-League debut tomorrow against Pune FC in Pune, and ahead of his much-awaited first appearance in Indian football, Edinho gave Sportskeeda an exclusive interview. He talks about his stay in India so far, and how he would also consider a permanent move to the North-East club.
Tell us about your feelings when you were first informed about your loan move from Blackburn Rovers to Shillong Lajong?
I was immediately very happy and enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to play in this marvellous country that I always wanted to visit.
Did you have any idea about Indian football before coming here?
All I knew about Indian football was positive. First of all, I knew about the passion and commitment that the owners of Blackburn Rovers showed towards their club. This showed me that the people from India love the game and want to be part of it at the highest level. I also know Sunil Chhetri, because he came to play in the third biggest club of Portugal (Sporting Lisbon).
You will be playing in a country that has never played at the World Cup and is currently ranked 143rd in the world, so how do you see this move overall?
I see this as a fantastic opportunity to help those who believed in me, to give joy to all the supporters of Shillong Lajong, and I will come here to play with the same enthusiasm and professionalism like I did while I was playing with Blackburn Rovers. I will try to give my best to help my club reach their goals for this season.
How has been your stay in India so far? Getting used to the weather and food in Shillong?
I am loving every single moment of it. Everybody is nice, gentle, and kind. I am loving everything. I love the Indian food and the weather is great and is much more similar to the weather in my hometown in Portugal. I found the Indian people very similar to the Portuguese people, and that was fantastic.
Shillong Lajong are one of the few Indian clubs that has good attendances for home games, so does that excite you?
That is absolutely superb! I can’t wait for the moment to play in front of a huge crowd and score the first goal for the Shillong fans. I want to play and bring joy to these fantastic fans.
Even though you are only 19, there will be a lot of expectations from you, since you are a Brazilian-born Portuguese. Do you enjoy this pressure?
I think it is a positive pressure that I love to live with. It has been always like that in my career as my father was the top goalscorer of the team where I played in Portugal, Olhanense. People always had big expectations of me, but I don’t feel any pressure, because I love my job and work very hard everyday to bring joy to people by scoring goals. I love that pressure because I find it very positive.
Shillong Lajong’s aim will be to survive relegation, but personally what will be your targets in this loan spell?
I don’t have any personal targets. I am here to help Shillong Lajong avoid relegation. My mission here is to leave this club at the end of the season having contributed to their survival. That’s my aim here. I don’t have personal targets. Let me give you this example – I would prefer not to score a single goal but see Shillong avoid relegation. I want to celebrate with all my teammates the collective success at the end of the season.
If you do well and enjoy your time at Shillong Lajong, then will you consider making this loan move permanent?
Of course! Why not? I always like to be where people treat me well, and I have been very well treated here. Indian people have been absolutely fantastic with me since I arrived here.
Since your father Edon Amaral Neto was also a striker, would you say your playing style is similar to that of your father’s?
My father was faster, quicker and more explosive. I am more of a’ fox in the box’ striker.