Nandhakumar Sekar is one of the names that have been on the lips of the Odisha FC fans, especially after his cracking winner against Chennaiyin FC in the dying moments of the game of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23.

Nandha hails from the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu and his affection towards the Chennaiyin FC fans and the city is quite well known in and around the league.

“I have never played for the Chennaiyin FC team despite being a Tamil Nadu footballer. I know almost all of their fans and a few of their players," Nandhakumar told Deccan Chronicle in an interview.

Chennaiyin fans have always been supportive of the player, so Nandha has a lot of respect for them. He mentioned how he would have celebrated in a wild fashion had it been any other team as it was a winning goal, but Chennaiyin FC and its fans always hold a special place in his heart due to the support that he has received from them.

Nandhakumar has been with Odisha FC since 2017 and lauded Spanish head coach Josep Gombau for playing a significant role in shaping his career.

He said, “I first met the coach in 2017, when I was new to the club. After he left, I worked under two different coaches.

Gombau had one-on-one interaction with every player and wanted Nandha to take up more responsibility to lead the pack as the coach trusted him. His words gave Nandha confidence and it has been reflecting on the pitch this season. He became very comfortable with the coach, and it was one of the reasons he adapted easily to the coach’s Spanish style of football.

Nandhakumar Sekar has another teammate of his in Odisha FC who hails from Tamil Nadu, Michael Soosairaj.

They both know each other from a long time ago, when they were rivals and played against each other at school level and in many inter-college tournaments. Soosairaj was a part of Madras Christian College, while Nandha played for Hindustan University.

Nandha said, “When we were on the field, we were proper rivals, but off it, we remained good friends.”

They played together at Chennai City FC along with CFC’s Edwin Sydney.

Nandhakumar Sekar’s story of coming through the ranks is another inspiring one, where a son of an auto rickshaw driver worked his way up at the renowned SC STEDS football club.

Nandha began playing football when he was in class five with the neighbourhood kids. When he told his parents about his love for the game, they were very supportive. Playing at SC STEDS (a fourth-division league) gave Nandha a lot of opportunities to play in league matches.

The Odisha FC winger, who has netted three goals so far this season, aims to enter double digits and guide his team to its first Hero ISL champion trophy.

He will look to keep up with his current form after another comeback victory in the last game, where his goal was of great importance.

The Juggernauts take on NorthEast United FC in their next fixture on Friday at their home turf in the Hero ISL.