Afghan defender Masih Saighani joins Chennaiyin on a free transfer

Chennaiyin FC have announced that the club has secured the signing of Afghanistan international Masih Saighani on a free transfer. Saighani was part of Bangladeshi side Abahani Dhaka last season and played in the AFC Cup against Chennaiyin.

Born in Kabul, Saighani moved to Germany with his family at a young age and spent his formative years playing for various lower-division German sides like VfB Marburg, SC Waldgirmes, Bonner SC and others. His first foray abroad took him to India as he signed for Hero I-League side Aizawl FC back in 2017. He played the 2017-18 I-League with Aizawl, making 14 appearances and scoring once.  He also appeared in the AFC Champions League qualifier, AFC Cup and Hero Super Cup 2018 for the Mizoram-based side before securing a move to Abahani Dhaka.

During his time at Aizawl, Saighani played in the Hero Super Cup 2018 match against Chennaiyin, which his team lost on penalties. While with Abahani, Saighani came across Chennaiyin twice in the Group Stages of the AFC Cup 2019.  He also scored in his side's 3-2 home win against the two-time Hero ISL champions - a result which would eventually prove to be of great significance as Abahani qualified for the competition's Inter-zone play-off semi-finals at Chennaiyin's expense.

The Afghan obviously impressed Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory with his performances and earned himself a contract with Chennaiyin. "Masih (Saighani) is an experienced player who ticks all the boxes for us. He has an imposing physical presence, is lethal in the air and is extremely comfortable on the ball. He can contribute defensively and build up play going forward as well. And most importantly, he is hungry to help Chennaiyin taste success again. We are excited to see him proudly don the CFC blue!" Gregory told the official Chennaiyin FC website after the deal was completed.

The player, too, expressed his excitement at the move and said, "It will be an honour to play for Chennaiyin FC, head coach John Gregory and the club’s fantastic supporters. I am very thankful for this opportunity. Chennaiyin and the Hero Indian Super League have always impressed me, and I am excited to participate in the tournament. Moreover, I can’t wait to play in front of the Chennaiyin fans. A team is always as strong as its supporters, and Chennaiyin are extremely strong in that regard. The fans can be certain that I, along with the rest of the team, will put our best foot forward."

Though primarily a centre back, Saighani can also operate as a holding midfielder and will offer the team a lot of tactical flexibility at the back. The 32-year-old is also a full-fledged international, having represented the Afghanistan senior team on 13 occasions. He was also part of the Afghanistan team which featured in the 2015 SAFF Cup held in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and finished runners up in the competition behind India.

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