Dudu: 'I-League clubs don’t appreciate me'

"In Europe, the clubs think about all of the players... it’s a team game. If we get three points, it’s for the whole team. Here, they only care about the goal scorers. The mindset of the clubs is very individualistic and that’s not the right way to go about things," says the Chennaiyin FC striker, Dudu Omagbemi.

Dudu Omagbemi..."I want to be the champion, and I also want to help the team by being the highest goal-scorer."   -  V. GANESAN

One of the most prolific strikers in the I-League, Dudu Omagbemi of Nigeria, came close to winning the Indian Super League title last year with FC Goa, only to be stopped by Stiven Mendoza’s heroics, as Chennaiyin FC won the gong in a fiery final. With the Colombian unavailable for the reigning champion this season, Chennaiyin FC’s new signing, Dudu, has assumed the mantle of the main striker for the side, as it attempts to overcome a difficult start to its title defence.

Sportstar sat with him for a chat all things football.

Excerpts:

Question: Chennaiyin FC is your third team in three seasons at the ISL. Did you have any difficulties in adjusting to your new team and coach?

Answer: The journey hasn’t been easy so far, but to be picked for the champion side shows that I’m working hard. (Marco) Materazzi was impressed with my performances in the last two editions and signed me up. I’ve faced no difficulties in adjusting to the new environment since I’ve played across Europe, and in India too. I’m quick to adjust to new conditions.

You have signed up for the defending champion as its leading striker. Does that mean more pressure on you to deliver?

No pressure, whatsoever. Of course, we don’t have Stiven Mendoza. He is a great player and has left behind a legacy. But I’ve done well too, and my work rate is my strong point.

 

Chennaiyin FC has had a difficult start to its campaign. Your thoughts…

There is no easy way to success. I believe it’s not how you start the race but how you finish it. We might have started slowly this season but we can turn it around.

You have had a great career in the I-League. What is your future in the I-League?

I don’t know… sometimes I feel like the management of the I-League teams don’t appreciate me. I’m a hard working player, and a team player. The only team that appreciated me was Sporting Clube de Goa and I enjoyed my time there. Even Dempo and Salgaocar appreciate what I did for them. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are good teams but they don’t understand what football is. They only think about who scored the goals. In Europe, the clubs think about all of the players… it’s a team game.

If we get three points, it’s for the whole team. Here, they only care about the goal scorers. I felt I was better than most players but wasn’t lucky enough to get many chances. The mindset of the clubs is very individualistic and that’s not the right way to go about things.

I’ve been getting calls from clubs abroad who are interested in me but my focus is only on Chennaiyin FC for now.

What are your thoughts on the possible merger of the ISL and the I-League?

Well, I cannot say whether it’s the right way forward for Indian football. Both the leagues are different in terms of the composition of teams (the ISL requires five Indian players in the playing XI of each team, while in the I-League it is seven). But it’ll be an amazing concept if it works. It could help individual clubs to go for the AFC competitions, just like how Bengaluru FC has done this year, as the quality of Indian players will increase with more teams in the unified league. So there would be more quality players to choose from for the national team. Also, the league could help increase India’s representation in the AFC Cup.

Do you think an extended ISL will work?

I don’t know how the players would feel staying in hotels for more than three months. The foreigners are used to being in hotels only for the weekend game, but here the hotel becomes our home. And unlike Europe, it isn’t easy to explore the city without having security around us all the time. Like I said, a combined and longer league could help the Indian players to improve, but I don’t know if it could be possible logistically. A longer league could put more stress on the owners and the organisers as well.

Your personal target for this season?

I came very close to winning the ISL last season. This year, I’ve joined the reigning champion and I want to be the champion myself. I also want to help the team by being the highest goal-scorer. As a team, we need to work together and I’m getting good support from them. So, anything is possible.

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