Paartalu happy to see Aussie mates perform at World Cup

Erik Paartalu watched Australia’s campaign at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with pride. The Socceroos may have exited in the group stage, but Paartalu was happy to see his mates feature in the quadrennial extravaganza.

Erik Endel Paartalu during a training session in Bengaluru on Saturday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Erik Paartalu watched Australia’s campaign at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with pride. The Socceroos may have exited in the group stage, but Paartalu was happy to see his mates feature in the quadrennial extravaganza.

The Bengaluru FC (BFC) footballer has competed with or against many of the Australian squad members. Highly-rated midfielder Aaron Mooy and Paartalu were teammates at Melbourne City FC, before Mooy moved to English Premier League side Huddersfield Town.

Paartalu also featured in the Australian national team a few years ago alongside Trent Sainsbury and Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.

“It was amazing to see guys like Aaron, Mathew and Trent at the World Cup. I’m so happy for them. I messaged Aaron on Instagram recently, and he was gracious enough to reply. Aaron and I had a great understanding on the pitch,” Paartalu said during BFC’s pre-season training session here on Saturday.

In Paartalu’s estimation, his time in international football “came and went quickly”. The midfielder earned a maiden call-up in 2012, against Saudi Arabia, in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification match. Paartalu spent that outing on the bench.

He later got playing time in two matches, at the 2013 East Asian Football Championship (EAFC). It was to be his last appearance in a national jersey.

“I was a little tired going into the EAFC camp, because I had had a strenuous season with Tianjin Teda in the Chinese Super League. I didn’t give a great account of myself in those two EAFC matches. After that, I played club football in Thailand. Our then national coach (Ange Postecoglou) told me that he couldn’t pick me because I was playing in Thailand, while most of the other guys were playing in European leagues,” Paartalu said.

The 32-year-old grapples with the ‘what if?’ question every now and then, when he sees his former teammates in high places. “When I see the Australian team play in the World Cup, I feel that I too can play at that level.

“However, guys like Aaron and Mathew operate on an everyday basis in the elite English Premier League. So I realise that it is a bit of a stretch for me to think that I can play at their level. But overall, to have the tag of ex-international is a huge deal for me and my family. No one can take that away from me,” Paartalu said.

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