Nandhakumar Sekar interview: Felt great to score the winning goal in the derby
The winger talked about the thrilling Kolkata derby win, his close connection with Naorem Mahesh Singh, playing for Carles Cuadrat, exploring the football scene in Kolkata, and more.
Several players from Chennai have worn the Red and Gold jersey, with many achieving club legend status by contributing valuable moments for the team. They continue to be adored by East Bengal FC fans to this day.
Nandhakumar Sekar, 27, seized the opportunity to wear the East Bengal colours by signing a three-year deal with the club in the summer. Soon, during his first Kolkata derby in the Durand Cup group stage, Nandhakumar earned himself a place in the hearts of millions of East Bengal FC fans and he intends to build on that trust from the fans in the upcoming years.
East Bengal FC hadn't tasted success in the Kolkata derby against their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant for four years until Nandhakumar's moment of brilliance brought relief to the fans, echoing jubilant scenes throughout the Salt Lake Stadium that day.
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Nandhakumar recalls the derby as 'one of the best moments of my career,' a memory that both the fans and the winger will cherish for a long time.
However, much has transpired since then, and the Kolkata club found themselves in a challenging position in the Indian Super League (ISL), a situation both the club and Nandhakumar are eager to rectify in the days ahead.
In an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com, the winger talked about the thrilling Kolkata derby win, his close connection with Naorem Mahesh Singh, playing for Carles Cuadrat, exploring the football scene in Kolkata, and more.
What was the feeling of scoring the winning goal in the Kolkata derby in the Durand Cup that ended East Bengal FC’s win drought in the derby?
It felt great to score the goal because it was a very important goal for our team and we got three points. The derby was amazing. It surely is one of the best moments of my career. The atmosphere at the Salt Lake Stadium that day was exceptional. It was a packed stadium and thousands of our fans turned up to support us. We won a derby after four years, so all the fans felt emotional. I’ll always remember the kind of love we got that day.
How is your understanding on the pitch with Naorem Mahesh Singh and what do you make of him as a player?
We’ve bonded pretty well over the past few months. He’s blessed with great talent. When I spoke to him for the first time in the national team camp in June, he came across as a very humble individual. We started talking about East Bengal, our attacking instincts and football in general. That’s how we became good friends. I have now developed a good understanding with him.
How has life at East Bengal FC been different? What challenges did you face in adapting to the new environment?
Kolkata football is different from the football cultures of other cities. Here, people are obsessed with the sport. Naturally, there’s more pressure on the players because of the massive fan following. However, I look at it as a big opportunity. East Bengal is a legacy club and I am proud to be a part of it. I was very excited to come to Kolkata and experience this football culture. As a player, you can feel the emotions of the fans because they are so attached to their team.
How has it been playing under coach Carles Cuadrat and adapting to his style of play? What do you make of your playoff chances?
I have been a big admirer of Coach Carles for a long time. He is very flexible and gives us ample freedom on the pitch. He is very clear about what he wants from the players. I am glad to be playing under him.
Growing up, who was your idol? Did you look up to any East Bengal FC players?
Many players from Chennai have represented East Bengal over the years. I was a big fan of Kalia Kulothungan and Raman Vijayan while growing up. I used to watch their matches and that’s how I got into football.