Edel Bete: ‘Taking up new challenges is my motivation’

Cameroonian goalkeeper Apoula Edel Bete has had a nomadic yet storied career in the embryonic Indian Super League. The former Paris St Germain 'keeper has two ISL titles to his name, with ATK in 2014 and Chennaiyin in 2015. Now plying his trade for FC Pune City, Bete speaks to Sportstar about his Indian experience so far.

Bete: 'ATK and Chennaiyin were great experiences. I wanted to continue my pursuit for a new challenge, besides I loved working with Habas, so joined him here at Pune.'   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Matias Defederico surprised Apoula Edel Bete in the first game of the Indian Super League, a low drive to the far corner by the Argentine. Jeje Lalpeklua chose the aerial route to outwit the Cameroon custodian, lobbing the ball over and into the net from an acute angle. These were two spectacular goals, scored at the Balewadi stadium, against one of the toughest shot-stoppers.

The former Paris St Germain player has won two titles in his first two seasons in the league, Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC in 2014 and 2015 respectively, and this points to Bete’s knack of joining champion squads. He sat down for a tete-a-tete with Sportstar as he talks about his new team FC Pune City, among other things. Edited excerpts:

Question: Jeje Lalpekhlua goal for Chennaiyin FC (1-1 draw at Balewadi stadium) was special. Your thoughts?

Answer: He went with his gut (feeling) of chipping over me, after seeing me come slightly forward (off the line). These are moments strikers, their teams and their fans live for. Two steps behind and I had it covered, but due respect to him.

The toughest forward you played against in your two seasons in the ISL?

Never easy to play against any forward, from India or any other country. Every forward has a unique vision and technique to score. It’s for goalkeepers to keep them in check. Having said that, I admit to facing some great forwards like Elano (Blumer), Iain (Hume), Sunil (Chhetri) and many others.

ATK and Chennaiyin, teams you played for, emerged ISL champions in that season. Why did you leave the teams after winning the title?

I am at a stage in my career where taking up new challenges is my motivation. Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC were great experiences. I wanted to continue my pursuit for a new challenge, besides I loved working with (Antonio) Habas, so joined him here at FC Pune City. His style of coaching is something that’s made a great impression on me. It’s critical for a player to know who the manager would be, so having Habas along with a thoroughly professional and ambitious club just made it easier to decide. I trusted him when he told me that FC Pune City is the club to be with.

This is your third city in as many seasons. What are you observations?

Passion for the sport is one common thing that I have seen. Kolkata, like everyone knows, loves its football, Chennai was similar and Pune is no different, though it’s a small fan base when you compare to the two others. Tremendous love for football here too. The sport is evolving with the league, players are becoming better.

Habas Marco Materazzi , the two coaches you played for, are emotional in match situations. You display calm on the pitch. How?

Both are great tacticians in their own way, have their unique coaching style. No ambiguity in their description for your role in the game. They say it, I understand and get on with my job. Coaches behaviour, hot or cold, doesn’t change the way I deal with match situations. I’m always in my zone the moment I enter the field.

A winning coach has some special quality which other coaches don’t have. In your opinion, why did Habas and Materazzi succeed at ATK and Chennaiyin?

Like I said earlier, both are unique in their ways of running a team. With Habas, you get what you see. Materazzi, on the other hand, is much more subtle in his approach. Both have a great eye for detail and most importantly, are great man managers.

As a goalkeeper, has any other custodian, Indian or foreign, impressed you?

Overall quality of football has improved. Goalkeepers are also getting better because there are close to three custodians in each side, so there is competition within a squad to be the best. I can’t put a finger on any one particular player. With every season, coaching techniques are also getting better which is resulting in better quality of players.

Your teammate Mohammed Sissoko also played for PSG earlier in his career. Did you chat about PSG with him about changes at the French club?

We chat about all things football and non football. The club is evolving with times, like any other top European club in the world.

Looking at quality of goals saved and goals scored in ISL season three, do you feel strikers will find it tougher than before to put the ball into the net?

Yes, you are asking a goalkeeper this, and I must say it is not going to be easy for players to score goals easily. Our job is to make it tough and I believe goalkeepers across all teams have made life tougher this season for goal-scorers.

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