Pradeep Mohanraj is a midfielder presently serving the Delhi Dynamos in the ongoing Indian Super League. His senior career began in 2011, when he signed for Chirag United Kerala and made his debut in the Indian Federation Cup.
Since then, he has gone from strength to strength and played for the likes of Air India FC, Mumbai FC, Ozone FC and Chennai City FC. Although he hasn't played a minute in the season so far, the 27-year-old offers a host of attributes such as accurate passing, intelligent movement of the ball and a goal-scoring eye.
We caught up with him for an exclusive chat and here's what he had to say about his personal career, the Delhi Dynamos' chances for the season and his career targets.
Q. Glad to have you here speaking to us, Sir. First of all, how have you come about your footballing journey? Take us through your days at Chirag United Kerala and Air India.
Initially, I was playing for the U-19 national side and then, I got an offer from Mumbai FC - which was my first professional club. It all started with my U-19 tour.
Q. You were born in Ooty, a city not overly known for its football. How did you start playing initially and what inspired you to go on from there and pursue the sport professionally?
Actually, I'm from South India, I'm from Ooty. And (in Ooty), they play more of football. In hill stations, more of football is played. I watched my seniors and my brothers play the game regularly, and that is what encouraged me to play football.
Q. Have you played at any position before midfield? If yes, which of them is more suited to your style of play?
More or less throughout my career, I have played in midfield itself. My main position is defensive midfield. When I was in Mumbai, I played at the same position, but at Air India, they asked me to play at left wing.
Last year though, they asked me to play left wing-back (he chucked). I feel this is my most comfortable position.
Q. How do you think playing for Mumbai FC, at a bigger stage such as the I-League, helped you and your development?
Firstly, what helped me was the fact that I knew not many from that part (Ooty) of South India get to play the I-League. A coach in the U-19 camp, Arshad bhai, helped me and brought me to Mumbai.
Everything over there helped me, David Sir, my coach was a foreigner and thus, I learnt how to play professional football. I improved a lot, understood the difference between school/college football and professional football.
For one year, I learnt how to play with the senior players, how to operate in that particular position and yeah, that's about it.
Q. Coming to your club in ISL, the Dynamos have failed to secure a victory thus far in the season. What according to you has been lacking from them, and what can be done to solve the matter?
(After a few seconds of thought), our team is good but the results are not in our favour. The team is good, the build-up is good and we usually finish with the maximum number of touches and passes.
We are trying to play, our style of football is unique and different. But, it's just the goals that aren't coming. We are creating many chances, but not getting the goals. Our team plays very comfortably and we play good football - both during practice and matches. The players have the confidence as well, but it is only about getting the results.
For example, in our game against Mumbai, we completed like 400 passes, not many other teams are capable of that. So, we just need to start winning.
Q. Do you think Delhi Dynamos can make it to the top 4?
Yeah, definitely. We are just six matches in and around 10 are remaining, so if we get some wins we can qualify.
Q. Which match in your career has been your best performance? And, why so?
It was last year when my team, Chennai FC, took on East Bengal and we drew the match. I played very well. Most importantly, it was in Coimbatore - my home.
My parents and entire family came to support me and I also performed well at my home, therefore it was my best match.
Q. If you were to partner any midfielder, from any nation, across any generation, who would you choose to play alongside?
I like Zidane, Zinedine Zidane. He was and is my role model, so I just wanted to be like him. But Ronaldinho too was my favourite. I saw them when I was at a very young age right. We grew up watching them play.
Q. Lastly, if not a football player, what profession would you prefer?
Haha, I absolutely don't know. I'd choose nothing other than football.
My mom used to ask me and force me to study but I only wanted to play football. She used to tell that without studying, you cannot achieve anything in life. But since I was crying all the time, she finally acknowledged and put me in a sports hostel.Published 03 Nov 2018, 12:44 IST