Mandar: ‘A good pre-season in Dubai has helped us’

Mandar Rao Dessai has been playing football since he was 10. His quick feet have carried him past the best of the defenders and are now helping him become one of the rising stars of Indian football. After making his debut for Dempo in 2013, the left winger kept improving and is now an integral member of FC Goa, coached by Brazilian legend Zico.

FC Goa midfielder Mandar Rao Dessai feels he has improved a lot since the last season and is confident he will continue to do so.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Mandar Rao Dessai has been playing football since he was 10. His quick feet have carried him past the best of the defenders and are now helping him become one of the rising stars of Indian football. After making his debut for Dempo in 2013, the left winger kept improving and is now an integral member of FC Goa, coached by Brazilian legend Zico.

He talks about his stint with his legendary coach, the ISL-I-league merger, his favourite footballers, among other things in a chat with the Sportstar.

Your team has started off well in the season. What do you attribute that to?

We had a good pre-season in Dubai. We worked really hard. We were hoping for a good start to the season and it has happened.

You have played in ISL’s first season as well. Are there any differences do you observe?

There are new marquee players. And some of these guys such as (Florent) Malouda still play in the international leagues. And, the league is improving day by day.

What kind of motivation do you get from your seniors?

The seniors are very helpful. They keep motivating me. Before every game the coach tells me to be calm on the field, to play and enjoy my game.

What do you think about Zico as a coach?

He is great. He motivates everyone. He wants to bring out the best in us.

How do you compare working with Zico and your coaches at Dempo?

My coaches at Dempo are really good and have helped me a lot. But Zico is something different. He is always calm. He never shouts or anything. He’s a great person.

Zico is a Brazilian and there are quite a few Brazilians in the team. Are there any issues with the language?

They can speak little English but can understand it well. And, Zico has a translator, so it’s manageable.

What kind of influence have the Brazilians had on you?

All of them are really good. They have played in really good clubs in Brazil. I watch and learn from them. Whenever I make a mistake they are there to rectify that and help me.

Who are the international footballers you look up to?

I have watched Arjen Robben and Ronaldinho since I was a kid. I like them a lot.

Do you think ISL is helping Indian footballers?

Of course, it is a great platform for Indian footballers. They are playing well and scoring goals in the tournament. And it might help our FIFA rankings as well.

What do you think will happen to the I-league? And what do you think about the ISL-I-league merger?

Even before ISL, the popularity of the I-league wasn’t great. It works in some places such as Kolkata. But there is not a big fan-base in Goa. There should only be one league in the country.

You were selected for the Indian squad in May. But you haven’t made your debut yet…

It is a bit frustrating but then it is really up to the coach. He knows what the best combination is for the team. I have improved a lot since the last season and I will continue to do so.

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