India holds a special place in Brazilian footballer Marcelinho's heart. He said he feels that the country has given him all the support and love a footballer can ask for.
"I have played the last five seasons of ISL. I have no complaints," the Brazilian told Sportskeeda during an exclusive chat.
"The love I've got in the last five years is unbelievable. It's not just the supporters of the club I play for, even rival fans have shown me love and I feel that is really motivating."
Marcelinho has come a long way since beginning his Indian escapade. With 79 appearances in the ISL since 2016, he is now one of the highest capped foreigners in the league.
Acculumating such a huge number of appearances in a league where teams are notorious for changing foreigners every season is an impressive task. The 33-year old also talked at length about his time in India, preparations for next season and his future.
'Special connection' with India: Marcelinho
Marcelinho is not the first foreign sportsperson to have been beguiled by India's charm. Many others have revealed their love for the country and admiration for the people's passion for sports. Marcelinho has had first-hand experience of this passion, and he loves India dearly.
"Everyone knows how beautiful India is. Culture, food, people - everything about this country is amazing. Over the past five years, I have formed a special connection with this country. I would call it my second home."
"I have plans to continue my career in India. If everything goes well, I will be back for a sixth season. Even after I finish my football career, I want to continue my sports career here, in one way or another. My future belongs to India."
"I am still in my prime"
With the Brazilian due to celebrate his 34th birthday later this month, age is certainly not on his side. Most footballers are past their prime at this stage and start having a dip in their career-graph. Marcelinho, though, reckons he can still stand out.
"Even after not getting to play much last season due to unfortunate circumstances, I still have one of the highest goals and assists (record) in the history of the league," Marcelinho reflected.
With 33 goals, he is the fourth-highest goalscorer in the ISL. He is also the third-highest assist-provider in the league with 18 to his name. The numbers could have been even higher if not for his falling-out with Odisha FC's head coach Stuart Baxter, which resulted in the former warming the bench for most of the season.
He continued, "I wouldn't say my best is behind me. I will continue giving 100% for whichever team I play for and will try to reach the playoffs at least. I still believe in myself and think that I can give maximum contribution to the coach and the team."
Preparation for next season on course
A few weeks back, a local Brazilian side, Esporte Clube Taubaté, announced that they had signed Marcelinho. This announcement took fans by surprise as they thought this meant the midfielder wouldn't be returning to India. However, Marcelinho tweeted later that he would be available for next season's ISL.
Speaking about his decision to sign for the club, he said,"The league is short in India and the off-season is just too long. I want to keep practicing and improve myself to be able to give my best next season. The league here is short, so it will help me to get better and better in the off-season. A move to ISL is still open."
Due to such dedication and zeal Marcelinho continues to be a fan favourite in the ISL. It will be interesting to see what Indian football holds for the Brazilian playmaker in the coming years.