No bloopers from Blumer

Elano Blumer has clearly established himself as the most influential player of the still embryonic Indian Super League. Ayon Sengupta caught up with the Chennaiyin FC star, recently.

Over the past few weeks we have witnessed a pleasant transformation. The Prime Minister’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” has found quite a few takers. Netas (cutting across party lines), movie stars, sporting icons or tycoons — all have proudly showcased their skills with the broom. And, now, hopefully you (the readers) and I will not lag behind.

But there has been another miracle wave, too — sweeping aside our nation’s cricket fixation and giving the ordinary Indian another mass sport to love. The dapperly packaged Indian Super League has been a fairly popular fare, even daring to replace the ever-running saas-bahu dramas from our drawing room televisions. The League’s marquee signings — though perhaps a little over the hill — have twisted, turned and shimmied past opponents and have found instant spots in our adulation pantheon.

And among the eight greats, Chennaiyin’s FC’s Elano Blumer has brushed aside the competition, clearly establishing himself as the most influential player of the still embryonic League. The 33-year-old, once a favourite of Brazil’s current national coach Dunga (during his earlier stint with A Selecao between 2006-2010), has been fatally accurate with the dead-balls and he answers, too, with a deadpan nonchalance.

You were playing in one of the top clubs (for Flamengo on loan from Gremio) in Brazil… Why did you decide to come and play in India?

I had already decided not to continue playing in Brazil. My friend Beto (Roberto Mendes Silva, who has won three I-League titles), who has been playing in India for a long time, told me about the project. And it seemed like an exciting opportunity. The country and the culture have always attracted me and it’s exciting to come and live in India and interact with the people. Now, I want to contribute both on and off the field here.

What is your initial opinion about the ISL?

It has been a good experience so far. It is moving in the right direction and it is good to see that more and more fans are coming with every game. The matches have also been very exciting with plenty of quality goals.

The Chennaiyin team was assembled late (even you had arrived late) and had little time to adjust to the conditions and practice together. But on field the team has done wonders, playing as a cohesive unit. What’s the reason behind this early success?

I think the main reason behind it is that the Indians and foreign players have a great understanding on and off the pitch. We are like a family here and it helps when you have leaders like (Mikael) Silvestre, (Bernard) Mendy, Bojan (Djordjic) and Marco (Materazzi).

You are one of the most senior members in the team and also probably its biggest star. What is your role in the squad; both as a player and as a mentor?

My first job is to give my best, but yes I do try to talk to other players and help them out.

Which Indian players have impressed you?

Every player has been impressive; both in terms of their attitude and hard work. They are all willing to learn and improve.

Chennai has switched between a three-man and four-man backline. Is it a sign of versatility or the team is yet to find its preferred system?

The tactics depend on what Marco (Chennaiyin’s player-manager) and the rest of the coaching staff are thinking. The most important aspect is to play as a team and give more than 100 per cent.

You have dropped deep, whenever needed, to help the defence. Have there been any specific defensive duties entrusted to you by the manager?

As I have said many times earlier, I try to give my best to the team no matter where I am on the pitch. When we don’t have the ball I try to push back and defend as well. My position is that of an attacking midfielder and I like playing there. But I can play in any position for the team.

How difficult is it to last the whole duration of a match, given the conditions in India. Do you see yourself playing all the 14 group stage games for Chennai or you prefer a break?

I am preparing myself to be available for all games. Physically it is not easy, but I try to use my experience on the pitch and perform even when I am a little tired.

Marco is an Italian. Has it been difficult to communicate?

I also have Italian blood and so communication is not an issue at all. We mix Italian and Portuguese.

You were a regular with the A Selecao during Dunga’s first reign. What sort of a rapport do you enjoy with him?

We have been together for six years and won the Copa America and the Confederations Cup. He is a good person and even today we are friends off the field. Today, though, he is the national team manager, I can call him, talk to him, exchange ideas. I think that friendship will always remain.