Indian national team striker Manandeep Singh has made a mark since the last edition of the I-League. At East Bengal this season, the guy from Hissar (Haryana) has made it a habit to score vital goals for his team whenever in need.
In a freewheeling interview to AIFF Media, the 20-year striker, a product of All India Football Federation’s Youth Development Programme (YDP) spoke at length on life as a footballer in Kolkata, playing for East Bengal, his performance, Colm Toal and a lot more.
As a footballer, how do you define life in Kolkata?
As a footballer, life in Kolkata is very different from other states. People adore you, they respect you. I love to see the craziness among fans. It feels really special to play football in this part of the country. Even when you go out, you get recognized everywhere. Kolkata gives you an identity as a footballer.
Many a footballer say – ‘One stays incomplete unless you play in Kolkata?’ Is that true?
Very much! The attention brings with it the responsibility of fulfilling so man wishes. The adulation comes for a cause and there’s everyone demanding something from you at every step. It’s a challenge not to let the fans down.
Given the fact that you joined East Bengal, a demanding club – how much optimistic were you in getting a chance to play?
It’s not only in East Bengal but the healthy competition for a first XI slot happens in every club. Having said that, it’s obvious, in big clubs like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Dempo, the competition is more. You have to fight through it.
Santosh Kashyap used to tell me that life gives an opportunity to all. One has to grab it when it comes. I follow that philosophy a lot.
You have a tendency of scoring some wonderful goals – what’s the secret?
(Laughs) There is no secret. I get a lot of support from my team. A striker may be scoring goals but you need to remember the support of the team and the supply line. Without them, the goals would never come. I stick to what my coaches and teammates tell me to do and intend on do my basics right.
You are a product of AIFF’s Youth Development Programme. Let us something about how life under Colm Toal was?
We were very young at that time. We were away from our homes and dear ones and needed someone to take care of us. Colm-sir (Toal) was the perfect person to guide us. He has taught us many a lesson both on and off the pitch. He is like a father figure; not only to me but all who have played under me.
What’s Colm Toal’s contribution in your playing career?
A child needs care and proper grooming. Under Colm Sir’s tutelage I got exactly that. He gives you just what you need as a youngster and shows you the right path. I respect him a lot and owe to him whatever little success I have achieved.
Have you set up any specific target in the I-League this season?
I am really upset for missing two three easy goals. My first target is to improve myself. I need to work had for that. As far as I-League’s target I concerned, we at East Bengal have a common goal – the goal of clinching the I-League. We have finished runners up in the last two seasons. This time, we want to end at the top.
(AIFF Press Release)