Interview with Nadong Bhutia: "The comeback is always greater than the setback"
Nadong Bhutia, the 25-year-old winger from Kalimpong is simply one of the most talented footballers in Indian Football. He has continued to impress one and all with his extraordinary skills and splendid crosses.
He is also a vastly seasoned campaigner as he has been a part of United Sikkim, Mumbai City FC, ATK, and Real Kashmir. Just when things were going on the right track for him, he suffered a great setback due to a knee injury in 2015 which ruled him out for almost one year.
He has come back into the reckoning and has scored 2 goals from just 3 games for Real Kashmir in the ongoing 2018-19 I-League season.
Sportskeeda caught up with the Real Kashmir FC footballer for an exclusive interview. Here are some excerpts:
Q. Briefly describe your professional footballing career.
I started my football career with United Sikkim FC in the 2012-13 season of the I-League. For the 2014 season, I signed for IMG Reliance. After my stint with IMG Reliance, I played for Mumbai City FC in the 2014 season of the Indian Super League (ISL). After that, I played for Royal Wahingdoh Football club in Shillong. Then I played for ATK in the 2015 season of Indian Super League. I was drafted in by a club in Bhutan after that. Last year, I signed for Minerva Punjab FC and I am currently plying my trade for Real Kashmir FC now.
Q. You have been a part of ISL as well as I-LEAGUE. How do they differ?
According to me, the difference is not that much. I-League is one of the oldest leagues in India. I felt there is not much difference because I-League is more competitive than ISL. In I-League, we have to collect as many points as possible. Every I-League game is crucial and important and there is also relegation battles. But in the Indian Super League, there is no relegation and there is no value for the points.
Q. Despite shining at the top tier (ISL), you suffered a setback due to a knee injury. How did you recover from the lows of your life? How difficult was that phase?
The injury is a part and parcel of the game. At some point in any footballer's career, he may suffer from an injury. But the comeback is greater than the setback. The comeback is more important than anything else in professional football. When I got injured, I thought that I might not be able to continue football for almost one year. I went to Kolkata for treatment and underwent rehabilitation. After recovering from the injury, I went to play in Bhutan for getting more exposure, gaining more confidence and match time.
Q. Former ATK coach Antonio Habas Lopez termed you as 'speedster of ATK.' How was it to work with him? How did you feel when the coach backed you that well?
Every footballer always tries to get opportunities. I got the opportunity to play under a great coach and I produced my top level under him. I consider it a great achievement in my life.
Q. Former Chelsea legend Nicolas Anelka proclaimed you as ' the big player to watch out for future.' How was it to share the dressing room with him? How did you live up to the expectations?
I played with Chelsea legend Nicolas Anelka for Mumbai City FC. Everyone knows he is one of the best European footballers and he has played for most top clubs in the world. I have huge respect for him and it was a proud moment for me to share the dressing room with such legendary players. He always told me that football is a festival and we have to enjoy each and every aspect of the game. He has played an important role in my footballing career.
Q. How do you adapt yourself to the position of a winger as well as a striker? What is the secret behind this?
I have used to playing these positions since the start of my career. So, I don't have any secret behind this.
Q. How have real Kashmir fared so far? What are your hopes and goals for the season?
The mastermind is our coach. We follow our coach's instructions always and our coach's motto is always a box to box. The formation is our key to success and that is the major reason why we are at one of the top positions in the points table. I wish to have a good season.
Q.Tell us about your family and hometown.
I am missing my parents and hometown Kalimpong. Kalimpong in Darjeeling is a hill station and a chill place. At the same time, my profession is football and it is all a part of the game. They all watch me play from home. Especially my mom and dad, my brothers and my neighbours too watch football, support and cheer me while playing. They have been my backbone and their support encourages me, makes me work harder and give my best on the field.
Q. How challenging is it to play in the cold climatic conditions of Srinagar?
As it is my second season for Real Kashmir FC, I have been able to adapt myself to the weather patterns and conditions. This season, we got the snowfall before November and it has become a colder place. But we have to move on and take it is an advantage.
Q. You started your career in United Sikkim, owned by Bhaichung Bhutia. How influential has he been in your career?
I left my job in Indian Army only because of Baichung Bhutia and my passion for football. I want to play in a professional level. I try to achieve higher and higher. I have learned a lot of things from Baichung Bhutia.
Q. Then came the final against Hindustan FC. How was that experience? Could you recollect what happened in Bangalore? You also scored a valuable goal for RKFC in the 67th minute.
When you score a goal at that moment when the team needs a point or it is a must-win game, that experience will be very special as a footballer. Everybody was cheering, laughing and enjoying the moment when I scored the goal against Hindustan FC. We were unbeaten for straight 13 matches. The atmosphere was awesome and the coach was happy. It will always be a cherishable and memorable moment of my life.
Q. How's the buzz around Kashmir over RKFC playing in the top division?
There are no words to describe the people of Kashmir. They are very much happy and have provided us with great support.
Q. How's David Robertson as a coach? What have you learnt from him?
He is a legend of Scotland and has played under coaches like Mourinho. He is a very positive minded coach. He is a very different coach than other overseas coaches and always backs and supports us a lot. He is a very dedicated coach and he loves to play attacking football. He expects us to give 100 per cent on the field and be punctual. He asks us to perform our level best and not worry about the results.
Q. Mason Robertson is someone who can play as a defender or a striker. Is his influence working well for the team?
He is a very versatile and compatible player. He can play the position of a defender as well as a striker. He scored a brace against Mohun Bagan and got us the crucial three points. He has had a great influence on the team.
Q. What's the one thing that holds the team together?
Football is a team sport and all the members including main players, substitutes, support staffs, manager, coach, are a family. We are like a family and all our fans are enjoying our success. Everything is going perfectly and we get the confidence to win games. Fans can lift the team up and they have always been with us irrespective of the results.