Ahead of Nepal friendlies, Brandon, Anirudh and Chinglensana speak of club contribution in their development
The fabulous trio of Brandon Fernandes, Anirudh Thapa and Chinglensana Singh are presently in Kolkata preparing for the upcoming friendlies against Nepal alongside 21 other members of the national camp under the supervision of Igor Stimac. The talented Indian footballers joined ‘Let’s Football Live’ on Twitter Space on Wednesday and opened up on a variety of topics, particularly about the contribution of their current Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) clubs in their growth and development.
Brandon made his Hero ISL debut with Mumbai City FC in 2015 and represented them in two games. Since 2017, he has been with FC Goa. The midfielder says being a local boy, he always dreamt of representing the Gaurs. “FC Goa is my home. I have been there four years now [with the club]. When they picked me, I was very happy to play for my home team. I always wanted to play for them, the fans, the atmosphere they create in the stadium, it’s amazing. I watched some of their matches in the first and third seasons and it gave me goosebumps. I wanted to be on the pitch there and finally it happened. It has been a great journey; the club management is very good. Everyone at the club has been really good to me and I am really thankful to them to give me this opportunity, to be one of them. Hopefully, we will do something great in the coming season.”
Anirudh has been with Chennaiyin FC since 2016. He made his Hero ISL debut with them the same year at the age of 18. The attacking midfielder is full of gratitude. “I never thought I would play at such a young age for them. The previous season, when they played the final against FC Goa, I was supporting them. And the very next year I signed for them. So, it was a dream come true. They helped me a lot. Whoever came in as head coach, they all helped me and made me a better player. Sabir [Syed Sabir Pasha] coach was there helping me every day, taught me what I need to do in my position. Playing for them means a lot to me and I am thankful to them,” he says.
Unlike Brandon and Anirudh who have spent quite a few years at their current clubs, Chinglensana joined Hyderabad FC ahead of the 2020-21 season having previously represented Delhi Dynamos FC and FC Goa. In his first season with the Telangana-based club, he featured in 18 games as the team under Manuel Marquez narrowly missed out on the semi-finals. Recently, the defender also agreed to a contract extension at the club. “It wasn’t a difficult decision to make because I was enjoying my football at Hyderabad FC under head coach Manuel Marquez. I have learnt a lot and I know I can improve a lot under him. They put a lot of faith in me, a lot of responsibility on me and it was all welcoming to me. It was the right thing for me to keep improving and keep progressing in my career,” the defender says.
In what was a lively discussion, all three players also reminisced about their debuts for the national team. Thapa made his bow back in 2017 during the Intercontinental Cup, Brandon made his debut in 2019 during the King’s Cup in Thailand, while Chinglensana represented the Blue Tigers against Oman in an international friendly earlier this year in Dubai.
“It is a great feeling to represent the country. I was happy, it was a proud moment for my family. I was always working hard [in the preceding years]; my dream was to represent my country at the senior level. I had played for junior teams before but playing for the senior team, it was a proud moment. I made my family proud and I am happy about that,” says Anirudh.
“That was a great moment. I wanted it to happen 2-3 years before. I am very thankful to Igor Stimac for giving me the opportunity to play. I really had tears in my eyes. When the national anthem is played, you cannot describe that feeling. It’s a dream. Finally, when the dream came true, it was an amazing feeling,” says Brandon.
“For me, that’s something out of the world. No words can describe that feeling. As a player that’s what you dream of. I got the goosebumps when I played for the national team. It’s an amazing feeling,” says Chinglensana.
Chinglensana also recently started twice for India in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha and gave a solid account of himself. Anirudh explains what makes Chinglensana such a special player. “He is tall, he is strong, he is a ball player. He can pass well. He is someone who could start the game from the back. We need defenders who could provide passes from the middle of the park, from the wings. He is one of the players who we look to do such things on a regular basis on the match day,’ he says.
Finally, Brandon sheds light on the ongoing camp in Kolkata, saying they were looking forward to the two friendlies against Nepal next month, on September 2 and September 5. “The camp has been very good in Kolkata. Everybody came with a positive mindset. Everybody has worked hard in the past few days and now we are looking forward to the friendlies against Nepal. We are waiting for the others players to join us from the AFC Cup, ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC players. We have worked in a good manner, trying to keep fitness levels high. Everything has gone well and we are really looking forward to going to Nepal and playing the friendlies there.”