John Arne Riise is known by many English Premier League fans as Liverpool’s greatest left back in modern history. Liverpool fans all over the world enjoyed his darting runs on the flank and his venomous shots
from outside the box. He spent seven glorious seasons with the Merseyside club and won a plethora of trophies with the Reds. He is now the back bone of the Delhi Dynamos and is leading the charge in the team’s quest for the Indian Super League title. In a free-wheeling chat with Sportstar , the Norwegian spoke about tomorrow’s game against Chennaiyin FC, his new role as centre back, working with idol Roberto Carlos and how Indian players need to raise their voices.
Question: What are your expectations from the league going forward from tomorrow’s match against Chennaiyin?
Answer: First of all our objective is to secure a play-off berth. But our main target is to be first and win the championship. Roberto Carlos is a winner, I am a winner, Malouda is a winner… We all want to win.
Tomorrow’s match against Chennaiyin is a must-win for the hosts. You, on the other hand, can take it a little easy…
Hopefully there is a game tomorrow with all this rain! But yeah, as I said, we want to win to secure the top-four. It doesn’t matter who we are playing against. Chennaiyin had a good game against Kerala Blasters, so they must draw confidence from that. We too are confident as we are coming on the back of a good result ourselves, beating FC Pune City 3-1. I expect them to press us high as they are desperate for a win and we know that. At the same time, I feel that we are the team to beat and with our system we will win tomorrow. But we have to be careful as they have some good players. We have to be on give our 100 percent.
How do you rate your performance this season?
It’s been pretty good. Being a natural left back and now playing as a centre back has been a big challenge for me. It takes time to get used to it, especially if you’re involved in competitive matches. But it’s getting better and better. The more I play there the more confidence I gain. Playing with Anas Edathodika has been good, we have a good understanding as he is a very good defender. I am more of a ball-playing defender whereas he is more traditional. So as a pair, it is working for us. We have the best defensive record in the League.
Your experience working with Roberto Carlos as a manager…
He was the reason why I joined Delhi Dynamos. As a youngster, I looked up to him because I am naturally a left back just like him and he has a powerful left foot just like I do. As a manager, he is very easy to talk to. He is friendly with the players and he wants you to enjoy and have fun. But he is a workaholic. If you don’t work hard, he will tell it in your face and maybe even punish you with some extra running. That’s because he is a winner and is not here to just relax. That’s another reason why I joined Dynamos because I am a winner too. Hopefully we can work for many years together.
How has your transition to centre back been?
Roberto Carlos asked me, when we met in Sweden, during pre-season where I preferred to play. I immediately said centre back as I had to think of the future. I always thought of myself ending up playing in the centre and at 35 years of age, it was time for me to start that transition. Of course, I did tell him I can adapt to midfield, left back, centre… basically wherever he wanted me to play. But I am happy playing in the centre as I am good in the air, can pass the ball and have a good left foot, so it feels more like ‘my’ position now.
How do you assess the Indian players?
In the beginning they were very shy. When I landed from Sweden nobody spoke and there wasn’t much smiling. They were almost hiding! And I’m the kind of guy who likes to shout during training to pump up the others and they were scared when I did that. So I had to tell them that this is how we should go about training and now there has been a huge change. Now players are talking, communicating and are smashing in with tackles.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the Indian goalkeeper, is playing for Stabaek in Norway…
I know, I met him in Norway. I was commentating for the game on television and after the game I met some of the players in the team. The goalkeeper wanted to meet me and I obliged. I was shocked to know that he was from India. But credit to him for going abroad and wanting to learn. This is what Indian players need to do more. Be brave and pursue foreign opportunities.
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