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Interview with Leo Bertos, marquee footballer, Kingfisher East Bengal FC

Resham Das
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 30 Aug 2014, 02:01 IST
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Leo Bertos being welcomed at East Bengal Club

You represented New Zealand in the 2010 South Africa FIFA World Cup. Now, why did you choose to play for East Bengal, a club in India, which is ranked 151st in the world?

I had been playing in the A-League (New Zealand national league) for 8 years and I felt that now it’s time for change. I had spoken to a few players who played in the I-league earlier and also I did some research myself. So, when East Bengal became interested, I accepted the offer. I already knew a little about the club and the competition and I became very interested in being a part of the team. Football is growing in India gradually and I can see great potential for the game here.

What have you learnt about Kolkata and India in the last few days?

I had heard Kolkata is a very big city of India, especially compared to where I am from (Wellington, New Zealand). It is the Art-capital of India too and the game of football is very popular in this city. I am eager to see and learn more about this city and the country as well.

How did you overcome the bad patches you faced in your career?

I love football and it’s all I have ever wanted to live with. I guess I’ve learnt to never give up and I always want to learn and improve myself.

Let’s talk about your international career, do you feel proud for having represented New Zealand in 56 matches?

Yes, it always gifts me great moments when I play for my country and it makes me proud. I hope I would be able to play more matches for New Zealand.

New Zealand was the only unbeaten side in World Cup 2010. How hard was your journey there in South Africa?

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That journey of New Zealand’s started 4-5 years before the FIFA World Cup 2010. It was a very difficult journey to get there. We were a young team with very little experience and lost many matches during the qualification phases. It took many years of hard work, preparation and performance to get into the World Cup and we had to perform even harder while competing in the tournament.

Armando Colaco, the coach of East Bengal is the most successful coach in Indian club football history. So, do you think your journey here is going to be very tough as a 'marquee player'?

I guess there are many expectations from me here in East Bengal as I have been labelled as the marquee player. From my experience of playing football for many years, I understand that it takes more than one player to make a team successful. I am looking forward to work together along with my new coach and my new team mates to achieve the goals and targets of the club. Hopefully, we will perform and be successful together.

Your country has a top cricket team. Brendon McCullum, the captain of the New Zealand international cricket team has a big fan base in Kolkata as he has represented the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League for the past few years. Now, do you think you are going to beat him with the help of the East Bengal fan base here?

Yes, I know how popular Brendon is here in India. I’ll not focus on competing with anyone on the basis of popularity at all. I, myself, am a big fan of Brendon and I always support other Kiwis especially the ones in sports. I am focused on giving my best for East Bengal here.

Kolkata is known for being the greatest football fan base in India. And the fans here are very demanding of their favourite footballers and clubs. Do you have any strategy to bear that much pressure?

I understand that the fans attached with this club demand success at any cost. But, the intensity of this pressure is the same everywhere else in the world of football at a professional level. I do not put pressure on myself. I just play and enjoy the game I love. Sometimes one can focus a little too much on results but do not forget, football is a game that should be enjoyed by all as well.

So, are you very much excited to play for East Bengal?

Yes. I just can’t wait to develop a proper understanding with my new coach and teammates. I have heard great words about this club and I’m excited to be a part of it for the next 2 years.

Published 30 Aug 2014, 01:38 IST
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