Q to John Gregory: How are you aiming to bounce back from the disappointing season you had last time out?
A: We’ve made necessary changes to our squad for the coming season, and there’s a lot of positivity in the camp. We’ve had a great pre-season in Ahmedabad and Jamshedpur, and the boys have come together really well, a proper unit. Now it’s important for us to carry this preparation and momentum into the new ISL season that starts in three weeks’ time
Q to Anirudh Thapa: How do you adapt between international and club duty, especially with all the changes at CFC?
A: As it is a new season now, it’s good to have some change. Everyone is giving their 100%, we’re hoping to start off on a good note. A good start will give us a good end, I’m sure.
Q to Jeje Lalpekhlua: How are you now? And how is your recovery?
A: Yes, everything is going well and on track. I hope I will be back on the pitch soon, hopefully before the opening game of the season.
Q to Jeje Lalpekhlua: Last season was disappointing for you personally too. How important will this season be, also in terms of making a comeback to the national team?
A: Not only me, it is also important for the team to have a good season. The main objective is to win the trophy and become three-time champions of ISL. Yes, we need to do well as players. We need to stay together and be a team. At CFC, we have always been a family. We need to do everything right on and off the pitch. Personally for me, I need to be back as soon as possible, and score more and more goals for the team.
Q to Dhanpal Ganesh: What must be done to have more local or Tamil Nadu players in the team?
A: Vanakkam to all. I believe before Chennaiyin FC and Chennai City FC, there weren’t any professional football clubs from Tamil Nadu as such. There was Indian Bank, but no one else as such. Through ISL, we are seeing more opportunities. Edwin (Vanspaul) as you know has also recently joined us. I don’t think this question would’ve arisen if we had professional football clubs in Chennai. Even I had to go to Pune FC and improve, had to toil hard. And then I got a chance at Chennaiyin FC. Chennai City FC are also a club now that is giving chances to Tamil Nadu players. There is always an opportunity for more local players in our club as well as in the national team.
Q to Lucian Goian: You as well as your son were popular figures at Mumbai City FC. What compelled you to come to Chennaiyin?
A: From the first contact I had with the club, I trusted that I could come here to fight to win the ISL championship. This club has won the trophy twice. I trust the project. I trust the coach (John Gregory) to put together a good group of players. And I am very happy to be here. After three years spent in Mumbai, I needed a new challenge, and I do believe that Chennaiyin FC can be the challenge that I need.
Q to Dhanpal Ganesh: You didn’t feature much last season through injury. This season you’re back, how much can we look forward to seeing you and Edwin (Vanspaul) in the starting lineup?
A: I cannot comment in the starting line-up as it is the coach’s decision. My aim will always be to start for the club, play in all matches. Last year was very difficult for me through injury. Surely, I am focused this year, a new team too with a lot of new faces. We are working very hard and are focused. We are sure we will pick up good results.
Q to Anirudh Thapa: How do you adjust to different styles of the coaches you’ve played under, for club and country?
A: The understanding is there between me and the coaches. They don’t exactly tell me what to do, they like my style and the way I play. They aren’t changing it as such, but rather telling me what to do within my style. Along with that, I know what the coach needs from me on the pitch and it is my job then to deliver that on the pitch.
Q to Edwin Vanspaul: You come here as a champion from CCFC. Ready to be a champion again, this time at CFC? Also, what is your favourite position to play in?
A: Me being a champion with Chennai City FC is now a chapter in the past. I must say that all of us here share the mentality of becoming champions with Chennaiyin. We will continue to give our maximum to achieve that objective. My position here is right-back, and I will give my utmost and contribute to the club’s success.
Q to Rahim Ali: You have striking stalwarts like Nerka and Jeje ahead of you, so what are your plans for this season?
A: Yes, this is a good challenge for me as I am a young player. It is very important for me to work hard to earn a place, fight for a place. After that the coach will decide, however it is important to work hard for it.
Q to Karanjit Singh: Will we see you more as a coach or a player?
A: Player! Only player!
Q to John Gregory: There are many new leaders in the squad including the new signings. Who are you planning to give the armband to?
A: I’m undecided at the moment. I’ll obviously have to see what the starting line-up is first. And anybody that’s captain material obviously has to be in the starting line-up. So until we officially announce the team for our match in Goa, it’s out in the open! I’ll decide before that day. I do have 4-5 players who are captain material, but I do like to believe that all my players will play like captains anyway!
Q to Andre Schembri: We’re really excited to have you here in India. What are your targets for the coming season?
A: My target is the team’s target. I believe our target is to win the (ISL) championship. So individually too I want to win the (ISL) championship and that’s my main aim!
Q to Nerijus Valskis: Nerka, you’ve scored a hat-trick in pre-season already. How many hat-tricks and goals do we expect from you this season?
A: I work hard for the team, how many goals I score is not important. It is more important that I contribute to the team’s wins!
Q to Dragos Firtulescu: How do you find the food here in India? Spicy enough for you?!
A: I like the spicy food too much! For footballers the food is good. Whoever wants to have spicy food can have spicy food. But people like German(preet Singh) will have bland food as they like that! (laughs). But good, everything is very good!
Q to Germanpreet Singh: When Thapa is playing in the national team, how do you manage to be without him?! (crowd laughs)
A: I am always going to miss him! (crowd laughs)
Q to Eli Sabia: You were one of the standout players last season. What went wrong though? How do you plan to correct the flaws this season?
A: Okay, last season was not so great, but we need to now only look ahead and do whatever is required to have a great season.
Q to Masih Saighani: You beat Chennaiyin FC with Dhaka, now do you plan to win the ISL with Chennaiyin FC this time?
A: Yes, I have played against CFC a few times in the past. Last time I came to India, to Ahmedabad and lost 1-0 with Dhaka, but won 3-2 in Dhaka. But I was really impressed with the team, the organization and the coach. I’m very happy to be here, and of course if you sign for a big club like Chennaiyin, you need to have a big target and that obviously is to win the (ISL) championship! That’s why I’m here.
Q to Vishal Kaith: You are a young promising goalkeeper, who will have to compete with three other keepers at CFC. What prompted you to move here from Pune?
A: Motivation is obviously there. I am here at a new club with some fantastic goalkeepers. So when the competition is this high, the motivation is only going to be higher. And to become champions will be our ultimate endeavour.
Q to Rafael Crivellaro: You have played in some of the best leagues in the world. What are your expectations from coming to India?
A: For me, this is a challenge. I have played in five countries so far, all different experiences. It is a challenge for me to come here to India. I hope we can have a great season and win the (ISL) championship!