Sanli Ready to give his heart and soul

REUTERS

“I have always loved to play with my heart. Such kind of involvement had appealed to the fans of the previous clubs. As a professional, I always like to stay focused and try to get the best result for the team,” says Turkish forward Tuncay Sanli to Amitabha Das Sharma.

Tuncay Sanli is the first Turkish footballer to play in India. The 33-year-old, who has signed for Pune City FC for ISL Season 2, is a huge fan of French football legend Zinedine Zidane. The forward grew up in the impoverished Turkish coastal region Sakarya and had a tough childhood with football offering the only window to a better life. His story, indeed, is quite familiar to many of his new Indian teammates, who, too, have faced many hardships while growing up.

Traditionally a striker, the former Turkish international can also play as a winger — a truly versatile footballer, he offers the manager a certain degree of flexibility. He has played for top European clubs like Fenerbahce and Middlesbrough for a large part of his career, and is also the second highest scorer for Turkey.

Not well-versed in English, Sanli, with the help of a translator, spoke to Sportstar about his upcoming Indian adventure.

Question: You have played in many of the top clubs in Europe. What prompted you to choose India as your latest workplace?

Answer: The Indian Super League is rapidly gaining in popularity as one of the most-watched leagues across the world. A lot of talents from across the world are playing in the League and I have seen many good players, whom I knew previously, going to India. I received a lot of positive news about the tournament last year and that helped me to decide.

You played either in the Turkish Super Lig or the English Premier League for the majority of your career. Which one did you relish the most?

EPL has a different ambience. The level of football there is at a higher plane. My stint with Fenerbahce was hugely successful, but once I started playing in UK, I realised the difference in standard. The quality of the players and also the game was much better and that helped me to produce my best. I really enjoyed playing for clubs like Middlesbrough and Stoke City.

You have a fantastic Champions League record with Fenerbahce. Brazilian superstar, Zico, who was your manager then, had been wholesome in his praise. How do you react to that?

Fenerbahce is very close to my heart. I gained international recognition because of Fenerbahce. I spent five beautiful years there, winning three (Turkish) League titles. I was part of the team which won the League when the club was celebrating its 100th anniversary (2007). I was playing under Zico then. So, it was a very special occasion for me and the entire team. It is always nice to be praised by a great player and manager like Zico. He is a very decent person and his heart always beats for the players.

You have always been a huge fan of Zinedine Zidane. Which aspect of his game has influenced you the most?

Zidane is a rare breed of footballer, who does not play with his feet alone. He has a great footballing mind, which he used with great distinction in the playing field. In my opinion, he was the only player in the world who knew what to do with the ball even before it reached his feet, making him one of the best minds in the history of football. This aspect of Zidane’s game has attracted me the most and I had always tried to be as effective as Zidane, finding a perfect harmony between the mind and your skills.

Much like your own story, even in India a lot of good footballers had to fight through poverty and become footballers. What advice do you have for them?

It is not important where you come from, but what is more important is where you are headed. It is always very important to have an ambition to succeed and to back that with dedicated hard work. I have always done that in my life and it has given me good results.

The ISL has been formed to promote football in India. But there are more foreign players (six) in the playing XI. What do you think about this?

The ISL is a fast growing League and has already attracted the attention of the world. To make it grow at a good pace you need to have good quality football. The foreigners, who have played in the big leagues around the world, can provide that. If you have quality players in a team, it will have a positive effect on the Indian players, who will gain in skills and knowledge by playing alongside these professionals. I will be happy to share my professional experience and knowledge with my Indian teammates. The ISL will definitely be a good learning experience for many and will help Indian footballers in the near future.

You have always been actively involved with the supporter base of every club you have played for. How do you wish to get involved with the fans of FC Pune City?

I have always loved to play with my heart. Such kind of involvement had appealed to the fans of the previous clubs. As a professional, I always like to stay focused and try to get the best result for the team. You have to give your 100 percent to achieve your dreams. The club has signed some good players and I hope the combination will work well and we will finish as the best team of the tournament.