A Martins monopoly

Ranti Martins continues to remain the biggest challenge for the opposition defenders and is regarded as the wiliest fox in the box, writes Amitabha Das Sharma.

Seasons change, so do the champions, but the I-League appears to have stopped seeing newer entrants in top scorer’s slot.

Ranti Martins Soleye, the 26-year-old Nigerian striker, yet again took the I-League golden shoe, scoring 26 goals according to the AIFF, stealing a march over compatriot Onyeka Okolie Odafa.

Martins, who became synonymous with Dempo Sports Club of Goa, where he won four golden shoes ever since joining it in 2004, did not lose his knack for scoring even after switching over to Kolkata outfit Prayag United SC last season. “It is difficult to keep performing at the same intensity for a single club for a long period. So, I decided to move to a new club and Kolkata was the only choice as I had played in Goa for a long time,” Martins said.

Martins continues to remain the biggest challenge for the opposition defenders and is regarded as the wiliest fox in the box. He attained a new level of excellence scoring five goals in one match when Prayag United walloped United Sikkim FC 10-1 to register one of the biggest winning margins in the history of the tournament.

Martins thus contributed wholesomely in helping Prayag finish fourth in the final league standings, the best ever display by the little known club from Kolkata. He scored almost half of his team’s total goals (55) to emerge as the most consistent striker to have ever played in the I-League. This was a hat-trick of golden shoes for him, equalling Odafa’s record.

“It is hard work and good luck that keeps me going. As a professional player I try to give fitness and discipline the top priority and this has helped me maintain a good standard of performance in the last few years,” he said. “I have my own fitness programme, which I follow on my own apart from the training schedule with the team.”

Explaining the reasons behind his stay in India, despite attending trials in Europe, he said: “Indian football offers good money, which is much better than minor European leagues. It is a different thing if you play in the top leagues in England, Spain, Italy or Germany but Indian clubs offer good money compared to other European or Latin American leagues.”

When it came to naming his favourite venue in the country, Ranti picked Kolkata for its passion for the sport. “Football has come up in a big way in Goa, but it remains more of a quiet place. But Kolkata is ahead in terms of passion. As a player you will always like to come and play where people come in big numbers to cheer for you,” Martins said.

Looking at the coaching scenario, Martins said that foreign coaches with an UEFA coaching licence are always a better prospect than the domestic counterparts. “It is always better to have coaches having a professional coaching licence from countries like Holland, England or Spain in Europe, where the sport has gained a high level of excellence. They have the right knowledge and experience to guide a side in the right direction,” he said.