Edwin Vanspaul is one of the key players responsible for Chennaiyin FC's resurgence to the top. Be it his dynamic footwork, accurate passes, or dashing runs through the flanks, Vanspual has displayed them all. The midfielder from Tamil Nadu was impressive in his debut ISL season for Chennaiyin FC in 2019-20.
Having won the I-League title with Chennai City FC in 2018-19, he moved to Chennaiyin FC on a two-year contract, and the rest is history. He has proven to be a versatile player who has been rewarded for his impressive performances, with a national call-up. Sportskeeda caught up with the midfielder for an exclusive interview. Here are some of the excerpts:
Q. Tell us about your childhood, and what made you take up football as your career?
I studied at St.Paul's school in Neyveli, and my football career dates back to my interest in school jersey. Since my father was a hockey player, I too got interested in hockey. I was a part of my school hockey team till 5th standard. During one of the practice sessions at school, jerseys were distributed to the football team but not to the hockey team.
I went up and enquired why were jerseys given to only the football team. I enrolled in the football team just for the sake of getting a jersey, and I started playing well. I played as a striker, and took part in various local leagues. Everyone told me to pursue football as my career. This is the reason why I chose this path for myself.
Q. What went through your mind when Chennaiyin FC offered you a contract?
It was a very unexpected and a happy moment for me. The talks were going on with other clubs, and I had made up my mind to play elsewhere. But Rohit Ramesh Sir, Chennai City FC's owner, called and told me that Chennaiyin FC would offer me a contract. Without any thoughts, I blindly signed for them. I was thrilled to play for my home club. It was an unforgettable moment for me.
Q. Chennaiyin FC won most of the pre-season matches and were in good form. But what do you think went wrong during John Gregory's reign?
Yeah, we were in good form and were able to win our pre-season matches. Ideally, pre-season games differ a lot from the ISL matches as they are a completely different challenge. But it is football, so winning and losing are all part of the game. I think we didn't get enough time to settle as a team. So, that played a significant role in our run of poor form.
Q. How was the team's spirits when John Gregory left the club?
It was a tough situation for us as a team to handle. John Gregory left the club during the one-week break in December, and we had to face Jamshedpur FC the next week. We were only thinking about the next game and tried to lift each other.
Q. Tell us about Owen Coyle and his attacking approach. How is he as a person?
Owen Coyle came in with a set of plans which was the need of the hour. He had already watched our games and was keen to improve our results. Coyle is a big-hearted person who does a lot for the team. He brought the attacking intent to our team that we lacked during our first games.
Coyle assigned well-defined roles to each player and organised rigorous training sessions. He is amiable and likes to interact freely with the players. The players, in turn, also feel free to approach him.
Q. How was it to play the first leg of the semi-finals against FC Goa at your home ground?
It was a great atmosphere to play in. To play in the semi-finals after we were written off in the early stages of the ISL was a great achievement. The crowd came in huge numbers, and it provided us with great excitement. Their presence motivated us to do anything to win the game. We won the game 4-1. It was an unforgettable moment in my life.
Q. You have always treated fans as a part of your family and love to interact with them. Tell us about them.
We are nothing without fans. Their support and encouragement always pushes us to give our best. They constitute a significant part and indeed are the 12th man in the team. By winning games and interacting with fans, they feel happy.
Q. You have been one of the most versatile players in the league. The coach shifted your position to mid-field during the end of the season. What are the challenges you faced playing in this position?
He was trying out different players in midfield, and after I played there in a practice game, he told me to be in that position from then on. I was nervous, but the coach motivated and boosted me more than anyone else. He asked me to give my best. It was a challenging one for me physically. I adapted to the position after 2-3 games, and other mid-fielders in the team also guided me well.
Q. Who is your favorite footballer?
My all-time favorite footballer is Cristiano Ronaldo. There are a lot of things to learn from him, such as his dedication and hard work.
Q. When you won the I-League title with Chennai City FC, you were the first one to cry in happiness. Tell us how it felt to win the title?
It was an exceptional season for me. I faced a lot of criticism in the previous I-League, and I wanted to silence my critics. I missed the pre-season as I joined the team very late. I had to do extra practice to get back in shape, doing a lot of hard work. As a team, we played together and put on extra effort. Moreover, the last match of the season was a very emotional moment for me as my parents had come to watch me play for the first time. Winning the trophy was a very pleasing moment for me.
Q.Tell us about your friendship with ATK midfielder Michael Soosairaj.
I have known Soosai since the SGFA trials. He used to be a great dribbler during that time, and many coaches told that he would have a great future. In Chennai, he played for MCC (Madras Christian College) team, and I plied my trade for Loyola College. So, we had to face each other as opponents.
We also used to meet each other during the local matches, including sevens league, etc. We played together for the Madras University team and have since become close friends. After that, we played together for Tamil Nadu in the Santosh Trophy and played well. Chennai City FC came into the I-League, and we both joined them in 2016.
Q.Your splendid performances caught the attention of national coach Igor Stimac, and you were selected for the camp. How does it feel to get recognised by the national coach?
I have no words to describe that feeling. To earn a call-up in my debut ISL season gives me a special feeling. Also, my close friends Soosairaj and Nandhakumar made the cut. I hope to learn new things and gain experience from other players in the camp. I will look to improve myself and look forward to it.
Q. What are you doing during the COVID-19 lockdown?
I am spending my time cleaning the garden, washing the car, and doing some household work. I also practice in the nearby grounds to take care of my fitness, and keep myself in shape.
Q. Can you give any message for the upcoming footballers?
I would request them to keep working hard and put on more effort. As it is said, there is no substitute for hard work. Hard work and dedicated practise are the keys to success in football. However tough it is, keep going, and increase your levels. I would also like to tell them not to give up their goals at any cost.
Q. You faced a lot of struggles in your early days. How have they strengthened you to face bigger challenges in life?
I think every successful person comes across struggles at some point in time. It makes us stronger and moulds us into better versions of ourselves. Whatever the problem may be, it gives us a will to fight it over. Every problem or struggle is a learning process in life. They only make us braver. I think my initial struggles have had a massive impact on my life.
Q.You have very supportive owners in the form of Abhishek Bachchan and Vita Dani. Tell us about them, and how do they motivate you?
I have watched Abhishek Sir on television but never expected to meet or talk with him. It is a special feeling to have him as our owner and spend time with him. He is an amiable, natural, and jovial person. He always cheers up the team and keeps motivating us.
Vita Ma'am is a very kind person. She always ensures that the team players are given the best facilities possible.
Q.The people of Coimbatore always have a special place in their hearts for you. Tell us about them.
The Coimbatore makkal (people) are still in touch with me. They have always been supportive irrespective of the club I play for. A lot of fans travel from Coimbatore to watch our games and support us. They consider me as their family member. I am very thankful for the same. I pray for their well-being.Published 13 Apr 2020, 14:42 IST