For Hero ISL centurion Tiri, it's been a journey of quality, consistency and commitment
Tiri may not cause a lot of splash on the field but his teams certainly always do. Already a Hero ISL winner with ATK FC in 2016, Tiri has always been a key reason in whatever success his teams have achieved.
In the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), the foreign players don’t just add quality to their teams but they go a long way in defining the character of the side.
Hence, when every year, teams sit down to finalise their rosters, the selection of the foreign players has special emphasis. It’s a decision that can make or break a team’s season.
Over the years, teams have deliberated on different strategies to crack this code and there have been a host of foreign players that have played the Hero ISL. Some have succeeded, while some have failed. And then there have been the likes of Tiri, who have normalised excellence to the point that their impact has often gotten overlooked.
Tiri became the first overseas player in Hero ISL history to make 100 appearances in the league during ATK Mohun Bagan’s Kolkata derby against SC East Bengal on Saturday. Yet, he probably won’t necessarily feature when an average fan sits down to list the best foreign players in the league as this accolade might fall to some of the more attack-minded players.
The Spaniard has quietly gone about his business with an unmatched consistency which not everyone may acknowledge but his employers over the years certainly have.
“I think it’s an incredible achievement to play for seven years in a league where there is a lot of chopping and changing,” Hero ISL expert Paul Masefiled told the ISL Media team.
“Where he has stood out is that teams have come back for him knowing that they are going to have an absolutely reliable player. ATK FC signed him for two straight seasons and the Jamshepdur FC offered him a long-term deal and now he is back with ATK Mohun Bagan playing for a couple of seasons. It just shows how much Indian football clubs value him,” he added.
A calming figure
For Tiri, the levels don’t usually drop. He is out there on the pitch delivering what he does best and providing stability to the team. His incredible consistency has made him undroppable for whichever team he has played or whichever manager he had played under.
“I think he's a real competitor and a real leader and he's just very calm on the ball. If you see players around the ISL, the best defender is who can take a touch when people expect you to kick it out and Tiri is just always that one step ahead, one pass ahead. His presence makes the whole team comfortable,” former Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu said about Tiri who has a staggering passing accuracy of 74% across seven seasons.
The Spaniard who first played in the Hero ISL in 2015 for ATK FC has managed to maintain his significance on the football field even as the number of foreign players allowed on the pitch have been reduced over the years.
“Tiri is someone who will give a 8/10 performance every week. He is so reliable that managers have dropped players with more quality on the ball just to have the assurance of Tiri in the team. He has been a real asset to the Hero ISL,” Masefield said.
Tiri joined Hero ISL as a 25-year-old and has now grown into a veteran and almost a role model for Indian players. His impact is not limited to his on-field performances.
“While he leads the team out on the pitch, off the pitch he is a real leader too. I think he has developed himself into a real role model for the Indian players by achieving what he has so far in Hero ISL,” Masefield said.
The Hero ISL can be a tough ask for the foreign players who must adapt to Indian football, the conditions and the dynamics of the league to be successful. A lot of top players have found it hard to get going in Hero ISL, but Tiri has made it look effortless. A big reason for that is his commitment to his trade.
“It's very difficult (for foreign players) because no one thinks about the off-seasons that we have to endure in the Hero ISL. You are away for 5-6 months,” Paartalu said.
“What you see with a lot of foreigners is that when they go away they blow out and don't come back in peak physical condition and when you look at Tiri he has definitely looked after himself when he's been here. That's testament to his job and what he liked doing. He takes his job very seriously. That's why he is probably the best foreign player to ever play in the Hero ISL,” he added.
Whether Tiri gets the distinction of being the best overseas player in Hero ISL is open for debate and may divide opinions. But being the first foreign player to reach a century of Hero ISL appearances tells you a thing or two about the centre-back.
He may not cause a lot of splash on the field but his teams certainly always do. Already a Hero ISL winner with ATK FC in 2016, Tiri has always been a key reason in whatever success his teams have achieved. His impact on Indian football will be felt even more when he decides to move and leave a void that would take some filling.
At just 30, Indian football fans and especially the ATK Mohun Bagan faithful would hope that time is a long way away.
Till then, one can count on the Spaniard to keep chipping away at the Hero ISL appearances and make his team better with every passing game.