Soosairaj hopes to receive national team call-up soon

Reflecting on the ISL season so far, the Kanyakumari-born footballer says that Jamshedpur is content, though it could have converted draws into more wins.

Jamshedpur FC's Michael Soosairaj celebrates after scoring his maiden Indian Super League goal against Kerala Blasters.   -  ISL/ SPORTZPICS

Not often in football do players hit the ground running after a switch between teams and leagues. A period of adapting to the playing style of the new team and/or of the new league — in which the matches may be played at a frenetic pace, the quality of players may be higher and the physical contact allowed by the referees may be excessive or minimal — is normal.

From that viewpoint, Michael Soosairaj has been an anomaly: he has not needed much time to integrate at Jamshedpur FC and his performances have given the impression that he is not anxious for a player playing in a new team and a new league, the quality of which is open to interpretation.

In an email conversation with Sportstar, Soosairaj opened up about his early months at the club, his first goal in the Indian Super League and a lot more.

“Jamshedpur FC has been a very different experience for me. When I came in during the pre-season, everything was new for me. But the management helped me settle in very quickly. It’s an extremely professional setup and I am lucky to be a part of this club and the Tata family,” the 24-year-old midfielder said.

Playing in central and left attacking midfield positions mostly, Soosairaj has scored three goals from a dozen attempts, while his defensive contribution is also noteworthy. He has been involved in 40 defensive actions in 471 minutes on the pitch, with 21 tackles, four interceptions, six clearances, and nine blocks.

Jamshedpur FC's Michael Soosairaj in action against FC Goa in the Indian Super League.   -  ISL MEDIA


Those numbers suggest that Soosairaj is heavily involved when Jamshedpur is in and out of possession. And the midfielder says that his manager, Cesar Ferrando, gives him constant pointers.

“The manager expects me to play complete football. When I have the ball, [the aim is] to pass accurately and when I don’t have the ball, then defend and try and win the ball back. Cesar sir talks to me every day and I get to learn a lot from him.”

On his goal-scoring exploits for the club so far, Soosairaj says, “There is no secret [to scoring goals], just hard work on the training pitch. [I am] listening to my seniors and coaches and trying to learn every day to make myself a better footballer.”

Soosairaj, who helped Chennai City FC avoid relegation from the I-League last season, opened his account for Jamshedpur with a first-time, curling effort from an acute angle, beating Naveen Kumar (Kerala Blasters goalkeeper) at his far post.

“Sergio [Cidoncha] tricked the defender and let it slip between his legs, so that I could run with the ball. All I had in mind was to hit the target and I managed to do so,” Soosairaj recollects.

Tim Cahill was arguably the headline signing made by an ISL club before the season, though Jamshedpur signed a slew of other important reinforcements. And Soosairaj says that Jamshedpur is lucky to have the Socceroos’ stalwart in the squad.

“He is a legend. We are lucky to have him in our squad. [We] learn every day how he trains, what he eats, how he conducts himself when we are not playing. He is an institution himself and I am glad he likes me a lot.”

Jamshedpur's Soosairaj has scored three goals in six appearances in the Indian Super League so far.   -  Special Arrangement


Asked if as a young player he looks up to any player in the ISL or from foreign leagues, Soosairaj says: “I look up to a lot of players. Everyone is gifted. Neymar, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Eden] Hazard — they all are so talented.”

Reflecting on the season so far, the Kanyakumari-born footballer says that Jamshedpur is content, though it could have converted draws into more wins.

“We could have won more matches, but we are happy not to lose any so far [Jamshedpur and Bengaluru are the only two unbeaten teams in the league]. Every point is important. In the coming matches, we will look to win more games.”

Despite his strong performances for his club, Soosairaj is yet to receive a call-up to the Indian national football team. Stephen Constantine’s decision to not include him in the squad for the Jordan friendly has been baffling and surprised many.

Soosairaj, though, is keen on working hard and is aware that a national call-up is not something he can control. “I am hopeful [that] the day will come soon.

“I leave that to the team management. I am working hard and I am sure everything will go well for me going forward,” he notes.

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