Pedro Manzi: ‘India is my second home’

Pedro Manzi admits he had offers from clubs to play in the I-League, but he chose to sign for Bengaluru United because he wanted to continue playing and wanted to avoid a long break.

At home: “The people here treat me really well and I’m very grateful. I am fond of the culture here,” says Pedro Manzi, who loves his stay in India.   -  The Hindu photo library

Pedro Manzi is a very popular name in Indian football. The Uruguayan-born Spaniard arrived as one of Chennai City FC’s foreign recruits in 2018 and took the I-League by storm as he netted 26 goals to marshal his side to the title. Such was his impact that he had offers pouring in the following season and moved to Japanese J2 league club Albirex Niigata for what was then the highest transfer fee in Indian football — around the tune of ₹1 crore.

Manzi has since played for Kolkata club Mohammedan Sporting and had a brief stint in Nepal before returning to India. There’s something that draws him back to the country, he says.

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The culture and food aside, Bengaluru United’s offer was too good for him to look away. While he admits he had offers from clubs to play in the I-League, he chose to sign for Richard Hood's Bengaluru United because of the club’s long-term vision.

And also because he wanted to continue playing competitive football and avoid a long break. The I-League begins in December, but the qualifiers got underway in October. And that’s what Pedro wanted — to play.

The 32-year-old will spearhead Bengaluru United’s quest to qualify for the I-League this year. Sportstar caught up with the ace forward recently.

What attracted you to join Bengaluru United?

I think this club is working in the right direction and their project impressed me. We have a really good squad and the team is hungry to play in the I-League next season. I am here to make that happen.

You said you had offers from other clubs that are already in the I-League. Why did you choose to play for a club that is yet to qualify?

The I-League starts in December and that means I will have a very long break before I get back on the pitch. That’s not very good for me, because I wanted to continue playing. I need to stay working through the year. I need three weeks, or at most, one month for holidays.

Anything more than this is bad for me as a footballer. The opportunity to play with Bengaluru United is perfect because we have the qualifiers now and I can play continuously.

You’ve been in Indian football for quite some time now. You had that fantastic season with Chennai City FC and then played for Mohammedan Sporting as well. You went to Japan and Nepal, too, but somehow found your way back to India. What keeps bringing you back here?

I feel at home here, India is my second home. The people here treat me really well and I’m very grateful. I am fond of the culture here and I have read a lot about the religions, too. I have a big tattoo of Goddess Kali, on my back. I like to visit the temples and practice meditation. Life here is good for me and I prefer the weather, too, because it’s hot.

Moving to Bengaluru: Pedro Manzi in action for Chennai City Football Club in the I-League in 2019. “The opportunity to play with Bengaluru United is perfect because we have the qualifiers now and I can play continuously,” says the Spaniard.   -  M. PERIASAMY

 

How about the food, is it very spicy?

I really like Indian food! My favourites dishes are chicken tikka, cheese naan, butter naan and chicken biryani. But I eat them only once in a while because if I eat spicy food every day then I’ll have stomach issues. I’m lucky because here the club has a chef who makes food for me without any spice. He keeps asking me how I eat this food without taste, but I say it’s perfect for me. (laughs)

You mentioned that you play a lot of FIFA on the PlayStation. What’s your favourite team to play with?

Well, until last year I played with Barcelona. But this year, I’ve moved to Ligue 1. Yeah, this year I play with Paris Saint-Germain. (laughs).