Ravanan: 'Chennai City will surprise the big guns'

"I was there when the last team from Chennai played in the erstwhile National Football League 12 years ago (Indian Bank) and I am now part of the first side from Chennai in the I-League premier division." said Dharmaraj Ravanan, during the unveiling of the 10th edition of the I-League.

In his 14-year career across various clubs and leagues, Ravanan has won every title possible in the country.   -  S.R. Raghunathan

With his Zlatan Ibrahimovic-esque hairstyle and a bright yellow jersey — it seems to be the favourite colour of all Chennai sports teams — Dharmaraj Ravanan was the first to arrive on the stage for the unveiling of the 10th edition of the I-League.

The experienced defender hopes he would also be the first captain of a Chennai side to lift it six months from now.

“I was there when the last team from Chennai played in the erstwhile National Football League 12 years ago (Indian Bank) and I am now part of the first side from Chennai in the I-League premier division.

"I was very clear that if ever a team from Chennai becomes part of this league, that would be my first preference. They had been trying to break into the top-flight for the last three years and I am proud and excited to be a part of this journey," the 29-year old told Sportstar on the sidelines of the launch.

Read: > I-League: Chennai City bolsters attack with loan signings

In his 14-year career across various clubs and leagues, Ravanan has won every title possible in the country. Though he began with Indian Bank, he soon moved to the football-friendly state of Goa, joining Dempo SC in 2005.

A year each there and at Mohun Bagan saw him move to Mahindra United for three years before reaching his peak with Churchill Brothers before the club was relegated on technical grounds.

He led Churchill to victory everywhere — its maiden I-League title in 2013, an IFA Shield and Durand Cup double in 2011 and then the Federation Cup in 2014.

With Churchill gone and the advent of ISL, Ravanan turned out for Pune City F.C. for the next three years, playing on loan to various clubs for the rest of the year — Bharat F.C. and Sporting Clube de Goa — before coming home, literally, to Chennai City.

“There are so few professional players around from Chennai, if I do not play for my team that’s not right,” Ravanan added.

Even though Chennaiyin F.C. is the glamour football outfit from the city at the moment, the lanky defender insisted that there was a lot more to football in the city than just the two months of ISL.

“There are almost 12 teams playing in the Chennai league, the fan base is huge for the local clubs also and we have a huge, very good stadium with great infrastructure. All that has been there from long before Chennaiyin. This club will be a treat for the fans and I hope they come out in big numbers and support us,” he hoped.

Chennai City, in fact, was founded as the Nethaji Sports Club way back in 1946 before being bought over in 2013. The newest member of the I-League is one of the oldest clubs in the ranks, with only the Kolkata giants — Mohun Bagan and East Bengal — being formed earlier.

As much as he is excited about a team from his home state making the cut for top-flight football in the country, Ravanan is equally happy for the return of Churchill.

“I am very happy for them, it’s great they are back, they have always been competitive and it’s great for Goan football in general, it’s a very positive step,” he said.

With a combination of youth and experience — the team has stressed on signing up local talent to provide an impetus to Chennai football —Ravanan hopes to surprise the big guns.

“We have signed some players from other states also, goalkeeper Karanjit Singh being one of them, and there a a few foreigners in trials at the moment. I am sure we will be a decent squad by the time we kick-off and we surprise everyone this time around,” he promised.

  Dugout videos