Rafael Crivellaro: ‘I want to win a trophy with Chennaiyin FC’

The 32-year-old Brazilian, who signed a multi-year contract to extend his stay at the club, is raring to showcase his form from his maiden season, when the club reached the final, on the back of his goals and assists.

Family man: “One thing I don’t like is that I’m away from my family, my wife and my kids while I’m playing here. Other than that I love playing in India. I like when we have fans in the stadium and I love the atmosphere. The people here in India are very special,” says Rafael Crivellaro   -  Sportzpics / ISL

Chennaiyin FC captain Rafael Crivellaro hasn’t kicked a ball in competitive game since December 29, when an ankle injury ruled him out of the 2020-21 Indian Super League season (ISL). Following the attacking midfielder’s injury, Chennaiyin lost its creative spark and limped to an eighth-place finish.

The 32-year-old Brazilian, who signed a multi-year contract to extend his stay at the club, is raring to showcase his form from his maiden season, when the club reached the final, on the back of his goals and assists.

READ: Owen Coyle: ‘There is huge potential in India’

Crivellaro spoke to Sportstar, at the start of the pre-season, on his goals for the upcoming season, on the need for a longer ISL season and more.

Hello, Rafa. A new coaching set-up and several new signings are on board. What are your thoughts at the start of the pre-season?

Pre-season is going very well. We have started training in a light manner so that players don’t get any injuries and slowly we will get back to match fitness.

We have begun well, everything is great and we are working hard to prepare for the coming season.

How is the COVID-19 situation back home in Brazil? How is the life there, your family and friends..

Brazil is very similar to India. About six months ago, the situation was very bad. With many people getting vaccinated now, the situation has gotten much better and life is slowly getting back to normal. However, we still have to wear masks!

Are you fully vaccinated?

Of course, I’m fully vaccinated.

How would you sum up the previous season from your personal point of view, and also from the team’s perspective?

Last season, we had a good team but results didn’t come. We had a bit of bad luck and we didn’t score too many goals. Later, I got injured and I was forced to leave the camp halfway through the season.

There is a lot of talk around Indian players requiring more games than what they are playing at the moment. How do you look at this issue? And, as an overseas player, how do you adjust to not playing for close to six months a year?

This is bad not only for Indians but for all players, including foreigners.

It isn’t good for any player to remain inactive without professional football for 6-8 months every year.

When the season starts, you take time to gain full-match fitness and by the time you get used to the team and gain momentum, the season is already over.

This is something the ISL should take a close look at.

They should seriously consider a longer season with more games. It’s impossible to have a good national team if the players only play for four months.

As an overseas player, how was the experience of playing inside a bubble for five months? What are your thoughts on doing it again this season?

It’s a difficult experience. However, we know we’re in the middle of the COVID pandemic and we have to adapt by taking the necessary precautions. It’s difficult to be away from our families and live alone. I hope that next season we can get rid of the bio-bubble and go back to normal.

Chennaiyin FC ISL 2021-22: Full Fixtures, match timings and venues

It must have been hard to play without fans last year. Would you expect fans to be back at the venues this season?

Fans are what makes football special and we play football for them. As players, we miss the fans a lot and the atmosphere they create at the stadium.

What are the things which you like and dislike about playing football in India?

One thing I don’t like is that I’m away from my family, my wife and my kids while I’m playing here.

Other than that I love playing in India. I like when we have fans in the stadium and I love the atmosphere. The people here in India are very special.

Anirudh Thapa is heading into his fifth full season for the club. He has played as an attacking midfielder, a box-to-box and holding midfielder in these times. What is your assessment of Thapa as a player and his playing role?

I always talk about Thapa and [Lallianzuala] Chhangte. Thapa, for me, is one of the best midfielders in India. He cannot stop here. He has to keep working on his game and I hope he can reach a whole new level.

Any other Indian player from CFC or the ISL who has caught your attention and could play at a higher level overseas?

I think Chhangte and Rahim (Ali). Rahim has a lot of potential and he’s still very young. He is a good man and he works very hard on the training ground. I think he can become a very good player for India.

What are your thoughts on the proposal to have biennial World Cups?

I don’t like this idea. I prefer it to be held every four years and I think that’s what makes the World Cup so special. If it’s held every two years it loses its charm and becomes like any other ordinary competition.

You have signed a multi-year contract with Chennaiyin and into the third season with the club. What’s the legacy you want to leave behind at the club and the league?

I think the most important thing is that when I leave, the people should remember me as a good person who came to the club and helped other Indian players improve. Secondly, I want to win a trophy with this club. I will be very happy if my legacy at the club is as someone who won a trophy at the club and helped others.