Javi Hernandez interview: 'Hero ISL has been a great step forward for Indian football'
Bengaluru FC’s new signing, midfield ace Javier Hernandez is just what the club may have been missing. Having played three seasons in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), Hernandez has made the league his home, and established himself as one of the best midfielders in the circuit.
The Spaniard will be the chief orchestrator in the midfield alongside the likes of Suresh Wangjam, Bruno Silva, Jayesh Rane, and Leon Augustine in new manager Simon Grayson’s side. With a player who has the tendency to move up the field and position himself in attacking zones, Grayson can unleash the midfielder’s creativity by linking him up with two veterans of the league in Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna.
The 33-year-old registered six goals and five assists in his previous season with Odisha FC, and has the ability to replicate these numbers, helping his side to return to winning ways.
Ahead of the upcoming Hero ISL 2022-23 season, the midfielder sat down with indiansuperleague.com and discussed his move to Bengaluru FC, his experience of playing in the Hero ISL, and a lot more in an exclusive interview.
Having plied your trade through several European leagues to playing for ATK FC, ATK Mohun Bagan, Odisha FC, and now Bengaluru FC. How would you sum up your playing career?
The experience of playing football across different countries and clubs has been amazing. I’ve met a lot of people, made a lot of friends, and made a lot of memories that I carry with me wherever I go. When I moved to India, I wanted to experience the footballing side of things, yes, but also the culture and the people. The last two years within the bubble were very tough, but now that we are back to playing in stadiums I am really looking forward to the experience.
What made you decide on a move to Bengaluru FC from Odisha FC?
When I realised that my time at Odisha was over, I wanted to look for a new challenge and the project at Bengaluru FC seemed really exciting to me. Now that I am here, I realise what the club is all about. It’s very professional, the staff and management have been very welcoming, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.
This will be your fourth season in the Hero ISL. How has your experience been in the league so far?
The Hero ISL is getting better every year, and as a player I think that’s a great thing because it pushes you to do better. The quality of the players, especially the younger players, is getting better with each season and you can see the difference in the national team as well. I think the Hero ISL has been a great step forward for Indian football.
You’re now one of the senior players in the league. So, do you see any improvement in the technical aspect of the young Indian players in Hero ISL?
Like I said, the younger players are getting better every day in the Hero ISL. When I came to India, some of the players I play with today might have still been in school! That they are playing football, professionally, at such a young age makes them technically better prepared for the future, and it also bodes well for the national team.
Having played under three different managers, what has been your best learning experience so far?
I’ve learned different things from each of the coaches I’ve played under. The demands and expectations differ from coach to coach, and playing under each of them has been a process that has helped me evolve as a player. In India, I have played in conditions that I have never experienced before; hot, humid, sometimes rainy, and to deal with these situations is something I have learned over time.
As a midfielder, what attributes do you think Indian youngsters need to develop?
I think Indian football is headed in the right direction, and the youngsters are benefitting from all the exposure that they are getting at a younger age than before. That we have 17 or 16 year old players training day in and day out with us is great, and I think it is really helping them develop fast. The more games they play, the more they will improve.
Bengaluru FC is known for their massive fan support and they have one of the best atmospheres at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. What are your expectations from the BFC fans as they are returning to stands after two years?
The pandemic was tough for all of us, but even more so for the supporters, who couldn’t watch their team play for more than two years. I’ve played in Kanteerava once before, and I remember it was a great atmosphere. They are loud, and support their team even when things are not going their way, which comes from the bond that they have built over the years. I’m really looking forward to meeting them and playing in front of them.
In Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna you have two of the best goalscorers in Hero ISL history. As a midfielder do you enjoy playing when there are such prolific goalscorers in your team?
It’s always great to have natural goalscorers in your team, because they are intelligent and have the experience to gel well with any player in my position. Roy and Sunil have been playing at the top level for several years, and I’m really glad to share the field with them, but we also have younger players like Prince, Sivasakthi, Leon, Faisal, and others, and I’m also looking forward to helping them develop individually going into the new season.
As far as Suresh is concerned - What aspects of his game appeal to you and where do you think he can still improve?
Suresh is a player who has improved massively in the time he has been playing at senior level. He is still very young, and I am sure he has a long way to go. At just 22 years of age, he is an important figure at club level and for the national team, which shows how much he has improved. He’s a hard worker, very disciplined and always looking to learn, which is a great quality to have as a young player.
How different or similar do you expect your role to be at Bengaluru FC as compared to Odisha FC?
Like I mentioned before, every coach demands different things from me as a player, and it is my job to adapt to the situations that are presented to me. When the players, formations and tactics change, I have to also alter the way I play to make sure it is best suited for the team. I want to be as creative as possible in order to contribute to the team and make sure we get the results we need.