Marchena braces up for the challenge

Kerala Blasters' marquee player Carlos Marchena was upbeat about taking up the challenge in the Indian Super League. "When the offer came to play in India, I asked myself why not. I thought it will be a new experience and a new challenge for me to play in the ISL," the former Spain midfielder said.

Carlos Marchena at training at the Green Fields stadium near Thiruvananthapuram   -  The Hindu

In his illustrious career, Carlos Marchena Lopez has achieved almost everything that matters in football. He has been a World Cup winner, an European Championship winner and has had a successful club career with Valencia, with whom he won two La Liga titles and the Copa Del Rey.

But in the twilight of his career, Marchena, 36, has taken the extreme step of plying his trade outside his country, in the nascent Indian Super League.

The former Spanish international defender has joined Kerala Blasters as its marquee player for the second edition of the ISL. Marchena was a surprise choice as many high profile players were linked to the Kerala club. However, Marchena replaced David James, who was the captain-cum-coach and the marquee player of the Kerala side in the inaugural edition of ISL.

Having played all his club football in Spain and in Europe during his 17-year-long career, Marchena said it was the fresh challenge which ISL offered him that lured him to India and accept the offer to be the Blasters’ marquee player.

"When the offer came to play in India, I asked myself why not. I thought it will be a new experience and a new challenge for me to play in the ISL," said Marchena.

Easily the most high profile player in the current Kerala Blasters squad, the soft-spoken Marchena doesn’t have any pretensions of being a superstar. "I am just like anyone of them. Yeah players respect me a lot. But at the end of the day it is a team game. We have to play as a unit. So far it has been good. We have had nice training sessions and hoping for the best this season. I am also enjoying it," he said.

Marchena dismissed the notion that Indian players lacked the physical qualities of European players and said they were competitive. But he said the physical demands of the game in Europe were higher as the leagues were longer and more competitive. "In Europe we play football close to six months and take part in many tournaments as well. Here in India I get the impression that we are playing only for a short time say about one or two months. So the physical demands are less here," he said.

Both Mohammed Rafi and C. K. Vineeth, the Kerala-born players in the current Kerala Blasters squad, are bowled over by Marchena's down-to-earth personality. "He is just like one of us. It never occurred to us that he was a World Cup winner. He is very free with all of us. But definitely he is a class apart. You can learn a lot by just observing him," said Rafi.

The soft-spoken Marchena, however, prefers his feet to do the talking as Kerala Blasters begin their campaign against North East United on October 6.

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