India defender Gouramangi Singh signed up with IMG-Reliance for the new franchise-based football tournament in January next year.
He is among the players coveted by I-League clubs for performances last season with Prayag United, Kolkata. As one of the highest-paid Indian players since the switch from Goa’s Churchill Brothers, the Manipur player is among those anxiously waiting for a solution to the impasse between IMG-R and I-League clubs over player contracts.
He took part in a conditioning camp at the Cooperage under IMG-R head coach Trevor Morgan and is looking forward to joining the national probables under chief coach Wim Kovermans for the August 14 international friendly against Tajikistan at Khujand.
Gouramangi expressed his thoughts on the future of Indian football.
Q: As one of I-League’s highest-paid Indian footballers, you must have thought long and hard before taking the decision to sign up for IMG-Reliance event?
A: A new thing is always exciting. Footballer’s life is limited, so it helps to get an opportunity.
Q: Your thoughts on benefits for Indian football from this event?
A: Lots of international players are expected to come, that is what we have been told. Footballers from different countries, from different cultures coming here. We can learn from them. You never stop learning, whether as a footballer or in any other profession. I don’t think there is anything wrong in doing so. I go to Europe on my own to watch matches and visit famous venues, to pick up something by just watching, by just being there.
Q: Is there worry in the players’ minds about choosing between the new tournament and risk missing out on playing I-League?
A: There is talk of working towards a solution, I am hopeful it will happen. We have been part of I-League for all these years. When I was approached for playing in the new event, there was a thought in my mind about what is going to happen. IMG-R is the official marketing arm of AIFF. The federation is supporting this and IMG being a responsible company, we believe this can only be better for players. We feel they (IMG-R) have done their homework.
Q: Do you feel the two leagues (I-League and IMG-R tournament) can co-exist?
A: I am hopeful that things will work out in a positive way over a period of time.
Q: If things don’t work out, are you ready to miss the I-League held over long duration and opt for a three-month tournament?
A: As I said, IMG-Reliance is a responsible company and they know that the players cannot be sitting out for such a long period. I am sure the IMG officials can explain their plans better. I believe in them, their plans and in the steps they have taken.
Q: In a few days time, you join the national team preparations for the friendly against Tajikstan, ranked at 106 higher than India (146). Your thoughts on the game ahead.
A: We played against them in the AFC Challenge Cup 2008 final at New Delhi (India won the title 4-1 and then lost 0-2 in AFC Challenge Cup 2012 league game). They are ranked much higher than us and playing them on their home ground is going to be tough. At the same time, this is what we on the Indian team have been waiting for. Doing well against an international team on a FIFA day for friendlies is one step towards improving our ranking.