It was perhaps fitting that the goal which handed Chennaiyin FC a 3-2 win over FC Goa and the 2015 Hero Indian Super League trophy at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Sunday came from the boots of Stiven Mendoza.
The Colombian striker has been in red-hot form all through the season and deservedly bagged the Golden Boot Award after scoring in stoppage-time, his 13th goal in all. He was also named the Hero of the League.
Mendoza has been the Super Machans’ go-to man this year and bailed his team out of perilous situations – just as he did in the final – quite a few times earlier as well. However, the 23-year-old refused to take any credit and instead chalked his success up to his team-mates’ hard work.
“I believed in my team-mates. And my team-mates helped me stay calm. I knew beforehand that the team that we were going to face would be a tough one to go up against. My team-mates kept talking to me and that helped me remain calm. I knew that I was one of the key elements in the game tonight,” Mendoza said after the game.
It wasn’t the first time Mendoza proved to be a nightmare for the Gaurs. Their fixture in Fatorda earlier in the season saw the pacey striker run riot as he netted a hat-trick and also made an assist in a 4-0 win. Kerala Blasters FC also suffered the same fate as Mendoza became the first player in the history of the league to score two hat-tricks, a feat equalled later by Atlético de Kolkata’s Iain Hume.
And these performances haven’t gone unnoticed either as Chennaiyin FC’s star-man has attracted plenty of attention from other big clubs around the world. Discussing his future, Mendoza said: “For now I will be going back to Corinthians [Brazil]. I have a two-year contract so I have to go back. About the league, I am very proud of myself because I know I did well. And my team-mates played a very big part in my success.”
Mendoza also praised the ISL no end for facilitating his career. “Of course I believe that due to my football in India, I got other big opportunities [referring to Corinthians]. I would like to thank Vita [Dani] and Marco [Materazzi] for giving me the opportunity to come here [last year]. I’m grateful to them because I played here in a great team. So of course I’m very happy. My time in India gave me the motivation and the skill to do well. But of course, I think I deserve it.”
Mendoza’s winner against Laxmikant Kattimani in goal on Sunday was the icing on the cake after he had a verbal altercation with the Gaurs goalkeeper following his penalty miss in the second half. Mendoza maintained that staying calm was key after all the drama which unfolded in Fatorda. “I just kept calm and breathed and I had the belief that me and my team-mates can win this. After the penalty miss, I had the confidence to carry on and do well,” Mendoza said.
It is definitely safe to say that Mendoza has more than made up for missing out on the semi-final stage last year due to injury by putting in stellar performances this season to make Chennai champions. The memories of him running through the toughest of defences will forever be etched in the minds of football fans in India.