Football

Football with a foreign flavour

LENDING THEIR TALENT Useni Joshua Oshagve, Biennenne Ukizena and Maoua Buchi Niu who played for Indian Bank. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

LENDING THEIR TALENT Useni Joshua Oshagve, Biennenne Ukizena and Maoua Buchi Niu who played for Indian Bank. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Foreign players are a constant in various football leagues in the country, particularly in the prestigious I-league. It was Indian Bank in the late Nineties (when it was also a participant in the national league) that gave local fans the thrill of watching foreign talent for the first time in Chennai. Years later the practice continues with other teams joining in, because the belief is the foreigners could give that extra edge in a close competition that forms the essence of the St Joseph's-CFA senior division league.

Most times, the players recruited are of African origin. With their passion for the sport and their innate talent, the players from that continent generally make for a pleasing spectacle. There are at least five African players in the league this season, spread across three teams.

Of the three players who have been taken on loan by Indian Bank, two are from Nigeria and the third from Rwanda. Both the Nigerians, Useni Joshua Oshagve and Maduabuchi Nick Ohaba, have been playing in India for different leagues since 2008. They say, “We have our agents who make sure we are busy playing in different leagues in Kolkata and Delhi. It also gives us exposure to the skill-level of the Indian players”.

The Indian Bank players feel the main challenge in Chennai is the weather. The conditions are tougher here compared to Kolkata or Delhi. And what is their first impression of Indian players? “They need to have more strength and stamina.” Besides, “since quite a few of the players take part in inter-collegiate matches in these hot conditions, it affects their performance in the league.” It is this fitness level that they believe makes the difference between the players from their country and here. Rwanda's Ukizemwabo Bienvenue concurs with them, adding, “We have better training facilities at home because football in our country is considered a National sport.”

The Rwanda player believes greater stress needs to be laid on training and infrastructure development if the results of football are to be encouraging.

On the whole, the three African players are happy they are looked after well. Apart from playing, they spend time watching movies or listening to music. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are their idols in international football and it's their ambition to play in the European league some time in the future.

Another Nigerian, Ndbie Valentine, turns out for Arrows FC. He has been in India for three years now and has been playing mostly in Kerala.

Though Valentine had a bad start, earning a ‘Red' card once and suffering an ankle injury later, he has begun to realise his worth as far as his team is concerned. To that extent, he feels his game has improved and for this, he says, he is indebted to the backing Coach Thyagarajan has given him.

From the Ivory Coast comes Doumbia Mamadou to add to the variety in the league. He appears for AGORC, a team which has sustained with its own tried and tested set of players. Among the players from Africa, Mamadou has certainly become a favourite with the local fans. He had played for Netaji three years ago and helped that team win the league title. “AGORC will win the title this time,” he says with confidence.

While each African has been enjoying his role in his respective team, they share the view that the sport could do well with an infusion of more money. But, for the moment, their presence adds colour to the proceedings in the season's league.


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Printable version | Jul 2, 2022 11:06:55 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/football-with-a-foreign-flavour/article3254044.ece