ISL: Barcelona fan and Delhi Dynamos midfielder Souvik Chakraborty happy to be coached by "idol"
Delhi Dynamos unveiled their new coach for the new season this week in the form of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winner, Gianluca Zambrotta. The Italian has signed a two-year contract with the Indian Super League (ISL) club. He was in Delhi recently to make his managerial start in India and met the Delhi Dynamos youth team players at a grassroots event. Also present were the Delhi franchise’s three top Indian players – Souvik Chakraborty, Anas Edathodika, and Sanjiban Ghosh.
We caught up with Souvik where he gave us an insight about his journey so far in Indian football:
Hi Souvik, what are your thoughts on the new coach?
I have always been a huge admirer of our new coach, Gianluca Zambrotta. He was my idol growing up as a kid as I have watched him several times playing for Barcelona. I liked how he was not just a defender, but he was a wing-back. His ability to cross the ball was something I always want to replicate. He was solid at the back and always helped his team in attacking as well. He is a legend for Italy and Barcelona and I look forward to learning from him.
What can you expect from your side in the next season now that Zambrotta has taken over the managerial spot?
Ever since the start of the ISL, our team has been performing well. But there have been ups and downs for us. In the first season, we struggled initially but came back strong to finish the league on a high but missed the semi-finals spot by just a point. But, in the second season, we played well throughout the season but unfortunately faltered at the last minute and lost in the semi-finals. This year, with Zambrotta as our coach, we will definitely be gunning for the title as the coach and our players always want to win.
How did you start your journey in Indian football? How did you reach where you are today?
I started playing football at the age of 11 when I joined the Mohun Bagan academy. There I developed as a young player and learned a lot from the coaches. They helped me evolve as a player and I got into the senior team at the age of 17. But I made my debut in 2011 against Dempo S.C in the I-League. The next season I was signed by Air India where I played a single season.
In 2013, I played for the United Sports Club in the I-League but I went back to my childhood club, Mohun Bagan the following season. I won my first I-League title in 2014/15 with my side and since then I have been playing for Mohun Bagan. In the ISL, I have been playing with the Delhi Dynamos.
How do you think the ISL has made an impact on Indian football?
ISL has had a variety of Indian and foreign talent on show throughout the two seasons. The quality of the foreign players is much higher in the ISL as compared to other Indian tournaments like the I-League. We have been fortunate enough to work and learn from some of the best players and coaches in the world. This has helped the young aspiring Indian players to improve their skills and make changes in their game. We have seen many other players who have developed into good talent due to the ISL.
How would you differentiate between what the ISL provides and what the I-League provides to the players and the fans? Is there a difference in the pressure you face in both these tournaments?
The I-League and ISL are very different when it comes to the format of the league. In the I-League, there are more matches and it goes throughout the season. But the ISL takes place for a few weeks. There is also the rule that only 4 foreign players can play in the I-League in the starting XI. That affects the level of football as well. In the ISL, we can have 6 foreign players and that improves the team, and the crowd comes out to see them. But I would like to see the same support for the Indian players in the future. As far as the pressure is concerned, there is always pressure to perform in all the matches and tournaments. There is no difference in the pressure we face in the ISL and the I-League.
You are traditionally a central midfielder but last season you played as a right-back under Roberto Carlos. Did you like the role that was assigned to you? Which position do you prefer?
In the first season at Delhi, I played as a central midfielder because that is my normal position. I have developed my game keeping in mind what all attributes a central midfielder needs. But in the second season, I was played as a right-back throughout the season. It was maybe because my manager had seen potential in me to play in that role. I like playing in the center of midfield and that is the position I prefer because I can control the game from there.
You will be 25 years old on 12th July. But you have not been able to establish yourself in Indian football so far. So what will you be looking to work on? What is your personal goal?
I have been working hard ever since I came into the Mohun Bagan first-team. I have not been consistent enough, but I am working on that. First, I have to perform well in this year’s ISL so that I can play consistently for the first team. My personal aim is to represent India at the highest level, that is every footballer dream. I will be working on my skills and fitness once we start training for the new season from 11th July (2016).
What do you think is the key to winning matches and performing well in the ISL?
I think the most important thing in the ISL is the communication between the Indian and the foreign players. The key to performing well for your team is how the Indian and the foreign players combine. The combination is important because as a player, you have to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you are aware, you can help your teammates and thereby help your team in winning.
What do you make of your life in Delhi with the Delhi Dynamos?
I have been with the Delhi Dynamos for two years now and feel like a part of this family. We are all like a huge family who take care of each other through all the ups and downs. The officials and the back-room staff are always there for me and I like it here. The crowd support is fantastic and I am looking forward to giving them a reason to celebrate. This will be my third season with the team, so I am very excited.
Which is your favourite club? Which team will you be supporting in the finals of UEFA EURO 2016?
I have been a Barcelona supporter always. That is the reason I’m happy with Zambrotta being our new manager as he used to play for Barcelona. In the Euros, I wanted Spain to win because they are my favourite international team. But as they have been knocked out, I will want France to win because I don’t want Portugal to win. I am a Messi fan so I don’t want Ronaldo to win. (Laughs)