ISL: 'Football is never rosy', says BFC's Paartalu

Australian midfielder Erik Paartalu is relishing his time at Bengaluru FC and is eager the clinch the Indian Super League title when his side faces Chennaiyin FC in Saturday's final.

Erik Paartalu has been a key component of the Bengaluru FC side, having started in 14 of 17 matches and scoring three goals and assisting two.   -  Sudhakara Jain

In early 2016, when Erik Paartalu signed for South Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, he thought he was joining the best side in Asia. But barely 12 months later, he was jettisoned unceremoniously and was left without a club.

Jeonbak, which went on to win the AFC Champions League later in 2016, reportedly ostracised the Australian midfielder for being “too slow” for the Korean League, shipped him out on loan to Qatar’s bottom-placed team Al Kharaityat before his contract ended on January 1, 2017.

Five months later Bengaluru FC came calling and thus far it has seemed like a match made in heaven. The 31-year-old has been one of the standout midfielders in BFC’s run to Saturday’s Indian Super League final against Chennaiyin FC, starting 14 of 17 matches, scoring three goals and assisting two.

READ: Paartalu signs contract extension with Bengaluru FC

“Football is never rosy,” Paartalu said on Thursday. “It has been a roller-coaster ride but I have kept myself mentally sane. You could say Korea was a testing time in my life. I think I am here at because of that experience. It has made me much stronger mentally. If I win the ISL this year, it will definitely be like redemption.”

It's easy to see why. The last time Paartalu had a meaningful run at a club was at Australian A-League side Brisbane Roar (2010-13) with whom he won two league titles. Since then he has been a journeyman of sorts hopping from one Asian country to the other.

“For me, it's [ISL Final] massive,” said the defensive midfielder. “Because it's a chance for gaining silverware. I have not won in the last 5-6 years. Some go their whole careers without winning anything but I have been lucky to get a few. At my age, it could be my last too. You never know when's the next.”

What has also been heartening for Paartalu is his own performance. While Venezuelan forward Miku and talisman Sunil Chhetri have hogged the limelight, Paartalu, along with Spaniard Dimas Delgado and the now-departed Edu Garcia, has been a steely presence.

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“It's been consistent enough,” he pointed out. “At the start, I was scoring goals as a defensive midfielder. People took more notice of me and wanted me to score more. It did not put a lot of pressure but other opponents started marking me during set-pieces.”

“It's hard but people judge you on goals, assists and other statistics. This team though has been fantastic in sharing roles and responsibilities. Miku and Sunil (Chhetri) have scored a lot of goals but there has been a lot going on behind them [on the pitch]. If we hold the trophy, it's because of a great collective effort. I have been that player before with most passes, one who has scored more than other midfielders, but it's nothing without a trophy.”