It’s the club which every footballer longs to be a part of. East Bengal striker Chidi Edeh entered the 100 Goals Club when he netted his 100th goal in India against Mohammedan Sporting in the Airtel I-League at the floodlit Saltlake Stadium on Saturday.
The Striker becomes only the fifth player in Indian football to reach the landmark. The quartet who have already achieved the feat are Ranti Martins, Odafa Okolie, Yusif Yakubu and Jose Ramires Barreto.
In his first detailed interview since making it to the elite club, the Nigerian spoke at length to AIFF Media on what the landmark means to him, his long association with Indian football, the best defender he has played against and much more.
Has the feeling sunk in?
It is my biggest achievement so far. Looking back at my stint in India I can be proud of myself now. I have scored 100 goals and doing that in the top tier league of any country is no child’s play. I’m proud of myself.
Whom would you dedicate the 100th goal?
To my family and friends all of whom who have stood by me during hard times. The initial years in India weren’t easy.
Is it a relief or further motivation for you?
I have never rested on laurels and someone who loves to dwell in the past. But I truly feel that scoring 100 goals is not everybody’s cup of tea. Many have come to India and tried their luck with football but in vain. It’s not easy to come and adapt here, and then be successful. You leave your people and culture behind in search of greener pastures. A lot of hard work and focus is needed. Looking back I can say all of that has paid off.
Having said that, there is a lot to achieve and I am not done yet. The moment you feel that you’ve done everything, you are finished as a footballer!
Are you a man of records? Do you keep a count of your goals and other milestones?
No I am not a man of records. I don’t keep a track of them for the sake of it. Football is a team game and if you keep on thinking about your next milestone you’ll end up being a selfish player on the pitch. I reiterate I don’t live on what I’ve done. Every day is a new challenge for you to deliver the goods for your team.
So you mean to say, at 99, the milestone did not play on your mind every time you took the field?
(Laughs) I need to be honest here and have to admit that it did. (laughs again) But the situation in the league tble at the moment is more important. Of course as a striker I am always on the prowl. But every time I make sure my personal goals don’t get the better of club’s goals. We are still in the hunt for the Airtel I-League crown. I desperately want win the league with East Bengal and I believe anything is possible in football. Only the other day, Manchester United played against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and could have even won despite everyone having predicted a tennis scoreline in favour of Bayern.
Is this moment bigger than the four goals you scored for Mohun Bagan in the Kolkata Derby?
Both are special to me. I cannot forget that day when I scored four goals in a derby. It was like a cup final. I have never seen such reactions from fans. Now every time before a Derby, East Bengal fans keep telling me ‘score for us as you have scored four against us’. (laughs again)
You have played for a host of clubs in India and against the best of defenders. Which defender have you found your going toughest against?
It has to be my teammate Uga Okpara. I have also played against Douglas (Silva) too and he was not easy to get past as well.
Can you pick up your favourite goal?
I can’t single out one. I have scored so many! (breaks into laughter again)
Which opposition have you found life most difficult against?
I can say it’s the Kolkata Derby. Wearing the Red and Gold jersey, Mohun Bagan stays the opposition for me. I can tell you that the Kolkata Derby is not the best place to be in. A wrong move and even a boy from the stands will curse you. It was the same when I played for Mohun Bagan.
Who has been your best striking partner?
Without any doubt Dudu Omagbemi. We gelled really well during our time at Sporting Clube de Goa. It was not a big club then. I think our partnership helped the club prosper in a big way.
Is this the best phase of your career?
I can say so. I am enjoying my time at East Bengal. The team is so good that it becomes easier for me to concentrate more on my job and mind my own business. The workload is equally shared. I am also under a very experienced and good coach. I enjoy the challenge here. The expectations are always high and the fans in Kolkata are so aggressive.
Who will win the Airtel I-League this year?
Bengaluru FC are playing really good. But as I said East Bengal are still in with a chance and we will do everything we can to pull it off. Nothing is impossible!
(Interview & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)
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