Chennaiyin's Dhanpal Ganesh looks to use ISL as a springboard to national team

Dhanpal Ganesh endured a rather frustrating two seasons with Chennaiyin FC when he didn't feature in any of the side's games during its 2015 and 2016 Indian Super League campaigns but is back in the squad now and aims to earn a national call up soon.

Dhanpal Ganesh aims to perfom well at the Indian Super League to earn a national team call-up soon.   -  V. Ganesan

Local boy Dhanpal Ganesh endured a rather frustrating two seasons with Chennaiyin FC when he didn't feature in any of the side's games during its 2015 and 2016 Indian Super League campaigns.

The 23-year-old defensive midfielder put everything behind him when he played a near-perfect debut match against NorthEast United FC on Thursday, earning praise from the team’s coach John Gregory.

READ: Chennaiyin turns fortunes around, thumps NorthEast United 3-0

Ganesh revealed that it was India coach Stephen Constantine who called him regularly during his injury phase to enquire about his fitness status, and that largely boosted his morale. “After 10 months [in 2015], I was ready. [Generally] injured players are not cared for enough. I should thank [India coach] Stephen [Constantine]. He used to call me every two weeks and enquired about my fitness. He wanted injured players to get fit and back into the team. He gave me special rehab in Goa. Last year, he [Marco Materazzi, coach of Chennaiyin from 2014-16] didn't do it," said Ganesh, “but I don’t want to get into it.”

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: You played your first match in three seasons with the club. Was it an emotional moment when you entered the field?

Answer: When I entered, I didn’t feel anything. When the coach called me [prior to the match] I was praying. He told me you will play certainly, but I didn’t know whether I will be in the eleven. Once I was told about it in the dressing room, I was [pleasantly] shocked as I was in the gallery in the previous match. My focus was to do well in the opportunities provided and I thought I did that.

Did your family members watch the match against NEUFC?

All I told them was that I might play. My family loves Chennaiyin FC and they come to watch all the matches. I could see the crowd chanting my name. I cannot forget that.

How did you handle the injury phase?

[Contrary to belief] I was not injured for two years [from 2014-16 ]. I was injured for only one year. Not even one year, I was ready after 10 months [in 2015]. [Generally] injured players are not cared for enough. I should once again thank India coach Stephen Constantine. He called me every two weeks time, asking me 'have you started jogging and running’. He wanted injured players to get back to the team. He gave me special rehab in Goa. Last year, I don’t know why he [Marco Materazzi, coach of Chennaiyin from 2014-16]] didn’t do it. Injured players require confidence, and only then can they get back to their full form, but I don’t want to get into that.

What was your motivation at that time?

I was determined to prove to Marco that I am a good player. I-League side Chennai City FC gave me chances and I played in all but one match for the side last season. I have to thank Rohit [Ramesh] sir, owner of CCFC. This year, I also thank John Gregory who gave me the chance.

On hopes of getting a call-up into the National team call-up again

I haven’t thought about it. I am confident that If I work hard, I can [make the team]. In ISL, I will prove my worth and and earn my place in the Indian team.

Your career started with Pune FC in the I-League, and you went on to play for five years from 2011-16. How was your experience?

Chennai players mostly don’t prefer to go out of the state. I didn’t know English and Hindi and it was Ashok sir [manager of Pune FC] who took care of me like he has always done for other players from Tamil Nadu. I was selected in the Pune U-19 team, where I played for one year and I returned home because there was pressure from home to finish my education. However, Ashok sir managed to convince my parents of my ability.

ALSO READ: Coach Gregory praises Dhanpal after NEUFC win

Pune FC is everything to me. My professional life started there and I learnt everything during my time there. I am eternally grateful to the owners.

You started playing at Vysarpadi, a neighbourhood of Chennai. How do you look back on your career?

I started casually playing football and didn’t have any boots back then. It was just a hobby. My father was a painter and was not earning much and now when I look back at my career, it feels like a dream. It is because of football that I have been able to achieve all this.

Has infrastructure in Vyasarpadi improved given that players like you have emerged on the national scene?

No, they don’t have the platform. When I finish my football, I will do something for the boys as there is a lot of talent. All I do is sometimes recommend students to sports hostels. I think more such professional set-up in TN, things will improve.

Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua and you played together in the Indian U-22 team in the AFC Qualifiers in 2012, when he was the captain. Any memories?

Every time during practice, Jeje used to encourage me. Even now, he says we can play like old days and I have learnt a lot from him.

You have played a lot of matches at an early age in senior football for clubs like Pailan Arrows, Pune FC and others. Has it helped you when you compete on a big stage like ISL?

That is also one of the reasons. It has helped me become the player I am now.

Any targets to get back into the Indian team?

Stephen Constantine told me it depends on how I play and I am confident of proving myself in the ISL and gettingS back to the Indian team.

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