Chennai, August 19, 2019: Versatile defensive player Masih Saighani today completed a free transfer to Chennaiyin FC, for the 2019-20 season. The former Afghanistan international joins after a one-year stint with Bangladeshi outfit Abahani Dhaka, with whom he faced Chennaiyin in the AFC Cup last season. He has prior experience of playing in India, with Aizawl FC in the 2017-18 campaign.
Opening up in a candid phone conversation with the club, Saighani shared, “I have faced Chennaiyin in the past, with both Abahani and Aizawl, and I must say I have always been impressed by the team spirit and organization. CFC have deservingly been crowned Indian Super League (ISL) champions twice, with an ardent fanbase that supports unconditionally. I can’t wait to get started!”
“I feel the quality of football in the ISL is higher and more competitive. It is a completely different platform,” he added.
The 32-year-old is a versatile presence, who when asked to describe his game in his own words, went on to say, “First and foremost, I am a defensive player in my own view. My strengths are my height and ability to build up play. I’m not like many defensive players who just tackle. I like to create and I’m comfortable on the ball. I am a loud presence; I like to be vocal and aggressive on the pitch. I am a fighter and you will find me constantly motivating the team on and off the pitch.”
The former Aizawl FC player has bags of experience, having played more than a decade in the German lower leagues before his first stint in India. He has revealed the crucial role that CFC Head Coach John Gregory played in his arrival. “John (Gregory) is a very charismatic yet humble coach. When he first contacted me about the club being interested in signing me, I was immediately onboard. My decision was fast and very clear from the start. Not just John, but everyone else at the club has been very cordial and welcoming. It will be an honour to play for Chennaiyin FC,” he said.
Speaking of his ambitions ahead of the new season, Saighani said, “I am an experienced player and I want to help make the defensive side more stable. It will be important to put in the hard yards in pre-season and be ready. Lucian (Goian) has also come onboard, with Eli (Sabia) too signing a new contract. These are experienced players with strong technical ability. Together with the whole team, we will do everything required to bring CFC back to the top. One bad season cannot put down the good work and success of the club before that.”
Masih, whose name means ‘Messiah’ in his native language, then opened up about his early years and personal life. “I was born in Kabul in Afghanistan, but due to the turmoil in my homeland, my family decided to move to Germany. I was only two at the time. I have three older brothers and a younger sister. I began playing football with my brothers as early as when I was five or six, as my family moved across refugee camps. We finally settled down in Frankfurt, and I began playing professional football at a club called VfB Marburg in the German lower divisions. I began as a left offensive winger and forward, but eventually the coach moved me into a more defensive role. I thus adapted and evolved, with experience,” he said, taking a trip down memory lane.
Looking ahead to the time with Chennaiyin, Saighani signed off with a message to the CFC fans, “Again, I am very happy to have joined the club. I hear a lot about the fans, see a lot of support even on social media. A team is always as strong as its supporters, and CFC is extremely strong in that regard. They can be certain that I along with the rest of the team will put our best foot forward in the new season.”