How did a boy from Darjeeling grow up to be the Indian football captain?
Football was in my genes and I grew up spending most of life as a child on the football pitch with the ball at my feet. If I wasn’t playing the game, I was at a game with my family and if I wasn’t at a game, we were watching it on television.
The talent scouts at Mohun Bagan were among the first to spot your potential. At what age did you think you would make a living from football?
It wasn’t till the second year at Bagan that I realised that I could make a living out of playing football. It’s always the love for the Beautiful Game that has driven me. I’m glad it’s also what puts food on the table.
As the captain of India, how tough was the loss to Iran in the World Cup qualifiers?
A loss is a loss irrespective of who the opponents are and that always hurts.
How was it training with star owner Ranbir Kapoor for the ISL? How good a footballer is Ranbir, actually?
Given that he acts for a living, Ranbir is a pretty good footballer! He drops in at training sessions and is always encouraging the lads.
Are you looking forward to playing alongside French football star Nicholas Anelka for Mumbai FC?
Absolutely. He is a legend in his own right.
If you were to choose a composer to compose an anthem for Mumbai City FC, like You’ll Never Walk Alone for Liverpool, whom would you choose?
AR Rahman. The man is something else!
Growing up, you supported Brazil as a team. What’s so special about the Samba brand of football?
Ronaldo was a key reason they had my support. That said, they also played such an attacking brand of football that it was hard to look beyond them.
What do you enjoy watching the most? The English league, the Spanish league, or the Italian league?
Though Barcelona is my favourite team, it’s the English Premier League that I enjoy watching the most. It’s fast and very competitive.
When it comes to comparing players across eras, whom do you side with: Pele, Maradona, Messi or Ronaldo?
They are all great players but if I had to pick one, it would be Lionel Messi.
Players from the North-East were sought after in the ISL auction. Why do you think they are doing so well?
It’s got so much to do with the region’s football culture.
Your instinct as a forward is to attack. What other technical skills do good football forwards need?
Intelligence, calmness and speed. In modern football, strikers need to have defensive attributes as well to go with their attacking instincts.
Tell us a little about your fitness routine, diet and workout regime.
It takes the right method of training, the right amount of sleep and a good diet.
In a cricket-obsessed country, how do footballers keep motivated?
When you love the game, you don’t really need another reason to wake up and take the field.
If you weren’t a footballer, you would’ve been:
A part of the Indian armed forces. I just love the men in uniform.
Who has been your biggest inspiration to play the sport?
Without doubt, my father.
What is your signature style statement?
A football ground you love?
Camp Nou and the Salt Lake Stadium.
Who are your favourite players around the globe?
If it’s across sports then Lionel Messi, Ronda Rousey, Roger Federer and Sachin Tendulkar.
A cologne or fragrance that you like.
I’m dabbling with a few fragrances these days, but Armani Gio is my go-to perfume.
A song which plays on loop on your iPod?
Maaeri from Euphoria.
Why do you think football is the most popular game in the world?
Because it’s the best thing that happened to mankind.
Movie: Tanu Weds Manu (2011) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Musician: Kishore Kumar
Side of bed: I always want all of it.
Music band: They may not exactly be a rock band but Coldplay make for easy listening.
Holiday destination: Barcelona in Spain
From HT Brunch, October 4
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