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Interview with Hans Mulder: Chennaiyin FC star says fantasy goal would be a volley in the ISL final

Mulder joined Chennaiyin FC after two seasons with the Delhi Dynamos.

Hans Mulder
Hans Mulder before the start of a game (Image courtest: ISL)

After two years with the Delhi Dynamos, Dutchman Hans Mulder made the move to defending champions Chennaiyin FC ahead of this year's Indian Super League season. Mulder arrived as the champions looked to reinforce their ranks after the departures of midfielders Elano and Bruno Pelissari, both key players from the first two seasons, left them short in that area of the pitch.

Mulder scored three goals from 13 appearances in the first season while not hitting the back of the net at all in 15 appearances for Delhi last season.

However, compared to his stint with the Dynamos, he has been playing in a bit of a more advanced role with Chennaiyin. He will look to bring his energy and attacking runs from midfield to the outfit, evidence of which we've seen in the four games played so far, with two goals to his name already.

At the team hotel in Chennai, between games, Sportskeeda had the opportunity to sit down with the Dutchman and engage him in conversation. 

When one talks about footballing philosophies and schools of thought, 'Tiki-Taka’ and 'Total Football’ are amongst the pre-eminent ones in history. Mulder has roots from both countries with his father being Dutch and his mother Spanish. However, having been born in Amsterdam it wasn't surprising when he leant towards the Dutch ethos when asked to pick his favourite system. 

“I experienced the Dutch system as a player more, so I think that the Dutch philosophy and playing tactics is one of the best in the world in my opinion. So if I had to choose, I would choose the Dutch system.”

Holland’s struggles in recent games

Despite being the home of 'Total Football’ and having produced some of the best footballers of all time, the Dutch national team haven't had the best of times in recent years. We asked Mulder what he thought of the 'Oranje’s’ struggles.

“I think it's because of the gap in the  generations. Five years ago, you had Sneijder, van Persie, Huntelaar, de Jong; all of them were at their peak where they could perform at their best. Now the generation is very young and upcoming, so I think they will need a few more years to get the experience and get better over the years.”

Still only 29, Mulder had played all of his professional football previously with clubs in the Netherlands before signing with Delhi in the ISL two years ago. The first six of those years (2006-2011) came at RKC Waalwijk with whom he won the Eerste Divisie (Dutch second division) title in his final year there to lead them into the top flight. After that, though, Mulder had a bit of a rough period with Willem II (2011-13) and NEC (2013-14), injury and a grave personal situation playing spoilsport, eventually leading to his arrival in India for the ISL.

“It was a bit of a hard period in Holland for me. On the personal front, my father was very ill (diagnosed with lung cancer) and he passed away (after the end of the 2013-14 season). Then Feyenoord were working with Delhi Dynamos and they asked me if I wanted to do something else. They were talking about this new ISL league and about how some big players were coming. And I needed something different because of what I'd been through, a little bit of distraction. When I heard that Del Piero had signed for Delhi Dynamos, I was instantly sold.” 

Playing in India for players from Europe can be demanding and Mulder was quick to point out what the biggest challenge was.

“To adapt to the weather, to the heat, the humidity. You see the games, how the last 20 minutes everybody is soaking wet, the shirt is sticking to our bodies, and that's the second shirt by the way because at halftime we would have changed already. So I think that's the hardest part.”

The fans are incredible in the ISL

Hans Mulder 2
Mulder played for the Dynamos before joining Chennaiyin FC

Despite the physical war with the elements. though, Mulder has taken a liking to the crowds that throng the stadiums for the matches.

“The people are so friendly, it's unbelievable. The crowds are amazing, the fans in Kerala are perhaps the biggest example. I've played a lot in big stadiums like Ajax, PSV, but the atmosphere is not the same. If you are the away team in Ajax, they will throw things at you when you are taking a corner. When you go to Kerala they will cheer you; if you score, you will hear half of the stadium cheering for you. That's one of the good things so far.”

The Dynamos saw a different coach in each season that Mulder was there and this season too has been no different with Italian legend and 2006 FIFA World Cup winner Gianluca Zambrotta taking over the reins. Chennaiyin, in contrast, has seen the same tall, lanky guy with the fiery personality in the dugout all along, a World Cup winner himself.

“What he told us in the preseason is that, during training, everybody needs to be very serious. The one and a half hours/two hours that we do a day, needs to be very serious. After the training, you can do your jokes and whatever”, Mulder had to say about Chennaiyin coach Marco Materazzi’s approach and outlook.

Speaking of coaches, Ruud Brood was the head coach at RKC at the time of the 2011 triumph and after Mulder's departure, Brood did it again, winning the Eerste Divisie, this time with NEC in 2014-15. Brood’s success has taken him to the top of the game in Holland as he's gone on to become the Assistant Manager at Dutch giants PSV, the two-time defending domestic champions. We asked Mulder about Brood and what he picked up from him.

“He was very, very passionate about the game. He always wanted to learn more everyday. He videotaped all the trainings and all the games, to see it the next day and learn from them. Not just train, go home and forget about it. He really wants to help you develop the promise you show on the training ground. One of the most important things that he said is that you play the game like you train and that is true because if you are focused in training, you will be focused in the game.”

Raphael Augusto is one of the best in the tournament

As mentioned earlier, Mulder has been playing slightly higher up the pitch with his new club, but yet he's been doing everything right from driving attacks, making key passes and scoring to tracking back, pressing opponents and winning duels in the air. His partnership with Brazilian Raphael Augusto will likely have a key bearing in determining how far Chennaiyin can go this season.

“We are beginning to get the feeling of a team. We need to know everybody, what are their strengths and weaknesses. I think Raphael is, and I've told this already before, one of the best midfielders in ISL for sure. Only, it takes a little bit of time, and in the coming games we will hopefully show that we have enough quality in the middle and that we can win the games”, he explained talking about his partner and the squad in general and their road ahead this season. 

After a slow start in which they picked up only one point from their opening two games, Chennaiyin have notched up two wins on the bounce and Mulder and Augusto have got a good rhythm going.

Playing in a more attacking role, Mulder will definitely get good opportunities to add to his goal tally. We asked him about a fantasy goal that he'd like to score and immediately his thoughts went back to the state of Kerala.

“My fantasy goal would be in Kerala. Every goal can be special, it depends on the moment and the score at the time. But it will be lovely to score in Kerala, 18th of December (ISL 2016 final), with a volley, to make it 2-1 and win the cup”, he signs off with a cheeky smile. 

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