The recently concluded ISL final between Chennaiyin FC (CFC) and champion ATK was a special moment for Tamil Nadu as four players from the State were part of the two teams.
In the end, brothers M. Soosairaj and M. Regin had the last laugh, when they helped their side ATK pull off a 3-1 win over CFC.
It has been a remarkable journey for the brothers from Kanyakumari district. They were playing in the Chennai Football Association league just a few years back to help them make rapid strides in Indian football.
READ:The Habas revolution in ATK
Impressed on ISL debut
Soosairaj, the younger sibling made a name for himself in the I-League for Chennai City FC two years back. He also impressed on his ISL debut season last year for Jamshedpur FC (JFC).
This prompted ATK to shell out Rs. 90 lakh and secure his services. His rapid rise also earned him an India call-up in recent times.
Speaking to Sportstar , Soosairaj said, “I was surprised. It was huge pressure too, when a team pays such a huge amount to get you on a contract.”
From being an attacking midfielder at JFC, the 26-year-old had to adapt to a different role – playing as a wing-back this year.
“I had about 15 days to train before the first match. It took time to adapt initially and I had to improve my stamina as well. I improved my passing since our style of play was not to keep the possession for long.”
Tougher road for Regin
Unlike Soosairaj, for Regin the road to success has been a bit tougher with constant injuries affecting his progress.
The 31-year-old missed a major part of this season as well due to an ankle injury and was ready only for the business end of the tournament. Regin played the final league game and the two semifinals and final.
Regin, who was part of CCFC in its I-League triumph last year said, “Last year was the first season I played properly and learnt a lot from the team’s head coach Akbar Nawas.
READ: ISL final: ATK vs Chennaiyin - Combined XI of the finalists
“After I came to ATK, they did a fantastic job in getting me ready. I am grateful to Antonio Lopez Habas for showing faith in me and including me in the crucial games.”
Regin, who works for Railways in Bengaluru, could have had more success had he been able to play for Bengaluru FC (BFC) six years ago.
“That year I had to play the Santosh Trophy because the officer did not allow me to join the BFC camp.
“Luckily when the I-League chance came (to play for CCFC), sports officer Ajay Singh allowed me to go which turned things around for me.
“I also have to thank Rohit Ramesh (co-owner Chennai City FC), because without CCFC neither Soosai or I would be in this position now, said Regin.”