Interview with Churchill Brothers' Lebanese duo: “Football in India is more professional”
The quality of foreigners coming to the I-League now has certainly improved and two of the best this season are the Lebanese internationals of Churchill Brothers. Central defender Bilal Najjarin has been one of the best defenders while striker Akram Moghrabi has already netted five goals.
Both are very much part of the Lebanon national team, who are still in contention for a place in the 2014 World Cup, and it makes one wonder why two players from a nation ranked 14th in Asia are plying their trade in a country who are 31st in the continent and have not even come close to World Cup qualification since being handed a slot in the 1950 World Cup, which they eventually declined.
“Because Indian football is more professional than back home. My colleague Bilal told me good things about India and how it was more professional (in terms of contracts) and it helped make my mind up. The experience so far has been good as the club has ensured that we are properly looked after and made us feel like we are at home,” Moghrabi told Sportskeeda.
Najjarin, who has been capped 36 times at international level and has also played professionally in Australia, admits the quality of football in Lebanon is higher but he also believes Indian football is more professional.
“The standards here in India are good, they are trying to move forward. The quality of football in Lebanon is far better, however, there is no professionalism in terms of contracts,” Najjarin told Sportkeeda.
There are various cultural differences between Lebanon and India and Moghrabi talked about the initial challenges of adapting to a new country and environment.
“It has been tough since India is completely different from Lebanon, especially in terms of the food. We often try and get our Lebanese food from home. Food and travelling is very hard because India is a huge country and we have to do a lot of travelling to play our games,” said the 27-year-old.
But hasn’t he tried out some Shawarma, a meat preparation which is very famous in Arabian nations, in India? “No, not yet,” he answered with a smile. Moghrabi however hasn’t taken much time to settle on the pitch and last weekend scored an important injury-time winner against Shillong Lajong.
Churchill Brothers are currently third in the table, having played some of the best attacking football. However, they have been beaten by title rivals Dempo and East Bengal and Najjarin believes those two are the teams to beat.
“Dempo and East Bengal are two really strong teams so it won’t be easy for us and we need to keep working hard. We are looking strong and the team is gelling well as a unit. The team that will have the maximum focus will win the league as it is a long season,” the 31-year-old stated.
Following that dramatic away win over Lajong, Churchill Brothers have three consecutive away games starting with a clash against high-spenders Prayag United in Kolkata on Wednesday.