Jofre Mateu: Attacking players will be feeling free in closed door games

Former ATK winger Jofre Mateu talks football amid COVID-19, points out that players may need to reset some of their earlier habits like spitting during a match.

ATK winger Jofre Mateu and Kerala Blasters' Sandesh Jhingan vie for the ball during ISL 2014.   -  FILE PHOTO/ H. VIBHU


Jofre Mateu became a household name when Atletico de Kolkata lifted the inaugural Indian Super League title in 2014. The experienced winger had a great influence on the team’s performance. His leadership skills helped win matches.

Jofre played another two seasons with FC Goa before bringing the curtain down on his professional career. The articulate Spanish midfielder spoke to Sportstar on football amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

How different or difficult will it be for the teams to adjust to empty galleries?

The environment of brimming galleries gives you the emotion to perform better sometimes.  But it is always not that way as the pressure can be so high that it can bring down your performance. Given the conditions, I feel the attacking players will be feeling a bit free, at least in the beginning. But empty stands are surely going to have an influence as the environment certainly gives a player the flair and the flow in his performance. But now you have to balance the absence of that extra motivation with your temperament. It is tough but you have to go with that.

How difficult do you think it will be for the teams to motivate themselves in absence of the home supporters?

I feel changing the score during the game will not be that easy. Say, when a home team is behind at certain point, it gets the extra push from the supporters to fight back. Now I think the team will have to get on the field with clear goals and objectives. They now need to have a clear vision about what they are going to do and need to plan properly before getting on the pitch. And what you do during the action is more about implementing what you had planned ahead of the match.

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Do you think the closed-door games are the way forward for the leagues in future considering that the threat of the pandemic is likely to continue in future?

They are talking about opening the stadiums with a limited per cent of audience for the next season but the most important thing now is health. I am really happy that they have resumed the competition, which is the primary objective, I think to have spectators in the stadium is a really second thing now. It is always better to have audience when it is really safe.

Do you think the threat of the pandemic will force football to see some new practices like the restrictions on spitting or talking excessively during a match?

We are at the beginning of a pandemic and do not know long it is going to last. Till we reach the stage of ‘normalcy’ we need to reset some of our earlier habits. When you are having a match behind closed doors you also need to ensure that players also get in that reset mode to make the game even better and safe.

Bundesliga was one the top leagues to start action amid the pandemic. What are the lessons that La Liga or other leagues around the world can learn from it?

At this point conditions are different in different countries. So, one country cannot serve as example for the other because every country has a different population, tradition and practices. So the countries should be assessing their own situation before deciding on whether to start the leagues. In this situation, keeping your population safe is the main objective.

How do you reflect back on your career, especially if you are asked to compare your experience in Spain - La Liga and Segunda Division - to ISL where you spent the final three years?

In Spain I mostly played the Segunda Division though I have the experience of playing some La Liga teams too. Though I did not have huge success in La Liga but my experience in the Spanish leagues did give me the opportunity to play the ISL when it started (in 2014). I found a good form with the ISL teams and also could use my leadership skills to help them achieve a fair bit of success. I really liked the decision to come to India because I felt very happy playing there. All the three seasons there were very special.

What do you have to say about the ISL? Should it be played under a shortened format because of the restrictions that are being imposed because of the pandemic?

In most of the countries we are still not sure about starting the competition in the same way as before. I think taking precaution should be the foremost in the minds of the organiser. You can have it closed doors or have a limited audience to maintain the distance. You determine the conditions according to the situation in the country. It is always proper to progress step-by-step. Maybe you can start the competition closed doors and then have limited audience later on if the conditions are safe for people to come and see a match.

This interview was arranged by Sony Sports Network

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