“I feel proud to wear the Dempo jersey”

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by Naveen Peter

The 21-year-old prodigy, Mandar Rao Dessai, shares his interest and expectations after his dream I-League debut  with Dempo SC

At the age of 21 when youngsters begin to plan their future, a shy lad from the north of Goa is taking small towards living his dream of playing football for the Indian national team. Although Dempo SC lost their inaugural I-League match, Mandar Rao Desai made an impressive debut for the Golden Eagles. Dempo SC got an opportunity to talk to this promising youngster from Mapusa who believes that he has got the X-factor that can make him the most sort after player in the country. The clam and composed guy talks about his vision and dream as a professional footballer.

Q. How were you introduced to the game of football?

Mandar:  I have been playing football since childhood. When most of my friends preferred taking a cricket bat and hitting the ball, I preferred having the ball at my feet. As everyone knows that football is more like an obsession in this part of the country, no one really discourage me when I shared my dream of becoming a professional footballer. Initially it started with me being selected into the school team, then in the subsequent years I also played for my college team. It was from my college that I was selected to play for Dempo’s junior team. Since then there has been no looking back.

Q. How did you parents react when you shared your dream of becoming a professional footballer?

Mandar: As you know that I hail from Mapusa where football is more like an obsession and Dempo is the club that we follow. When I said that I was selected to play for Dempo, they were very happy and backed my decision to go forward and realise my dream of playing professional football. It is because of their prayers and blessings that I have done so well in the game.

Q. What does it mean for you to put on the blue shirt on a match day and walk out of the tunnel with the team for the kick-off?

Mandar: Putting on the blue shirt on a match day is a big thing for a guy like me who has grown up listening to the tales of Dempo’s legends. I feel the added responsibility of winning and bringing glory to the club that has been entrusted on me by the coaching staff and the manager and I can assure all the fans that I will always work towards the common goal of winning matches for Dempo.

Q. How hungry are you to learn from your seniors and the coaches at Dempo SC?

Mandar: I consider this new contract as an opportunity to learn more about the game from the experienced players like Clifford, Jewel, and many more. I think it is the hunger to know more and learn more from the game that keeps me going in the team.

 Q. How has it been working with the new head coach of the team, Arthur Papas?

Mandar: I believe Arthur is a matured and understanding coach. He guides and mentors every player and keeps the team united. This year we have seen more of on-the-ball training, which has helped us develop our passing and positioning skills.

Q. Have you set any personal goals for the season?

Mandar: I would be lying if I say I have no personal goals. I will be trying to cement my place in the I-League squad and will also try to get as much of playing time as I can. I also wish to break into the national side very soon.

 Q. What are the few things that inspire you and ensure that your future will be long and successful?

Mandar: I would say that it is the hard work that I put into my game which inspires me to do well. It has always been the struggle to win a game for my team that has acted as an inspiration for me.

 Q. To end, we would like to know whom do you idolize from the field of football?

Mandar: From the European league, I would say Ronaldinho. I have been following Dinho for a very long time and have also been learning from his YouTube videos. From the Indian circuit, I follow Clifford’s (Miranda) game very closely. As I play the same position as he does, it has also helped me develop my game.