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The Pune FC winger opines that the Red Lizards are one of the strong contenders for the title this season...

Khanthang Paite, the Pune FC winger, strongly believes that his side are capable of winning the I-League this season. The versatile ball-player is on a loan stint from East Bengal. He also seemed happy about the atmosphere in the current club while talking exclusively to Goal.com.

Paite has earlier played for big names like Churchill Brothers and East Bengal. He moved to Pune FC this season as he was not getting enough chances to appear for the Kolkata side.

“It’s amazing to play for Pune FC. The professionalism shown in managing the team is unbelievable. All the players are very happy with the coach and the management. This club has certainly given me a new life," Paite said.

When asked whether he will like to sign for the Red Lizards when the loan period ends, the Mizoram-born player was unsure. “I am still in touch with East Bengal since I am on loan from them. I have a year in my contract left and will decide upon my future only when it expires."

Paite explained on how different it was playing for his current club than what he had to endure at the Red and Gold.

“You always feel a bit of pressure when you are playing for the big teams of Kolkata. The supporters have their expectations. But here, I can play more freely. But the high point of Kolkata is the passionate crowd that fills the gallery. It feels great to play before such a crowd. I miss the full-house here. But Pune FC is also gaining popularity fast and I hope the time is not far away when the stadium will be abuzz with our supporters," he hoped.

He also seemed satisfied with the team’s performance. Pune FC are now arein 4th place with 20 points from their 10 matches. Paite claimed that their big win of 5-1 over Dempo SC last weekend has boosted their morale.

“It was a great win. We have gained much confidence in the last match by beating the league-toppers. We have a couple of very important fixtures coming up and we must perform well in those matches.”

Pune FC will play Prayag United next and then will visit the north-eastern part of the country to play Shillong Lajong. They are 5 points behind table-leaders Churchill Brothers and Dempo SC and have a game in hand against Air India.

He remarked that there are three  clubs that can pose a threat to his team in the title-race this season. “Churchill Brothers are playing good football this time around and it will be a big challenge going past them. Dempo has been as consistent as ever. East Bengal, also can win the league this time.”

The winger was also optimistic about getting a national call-up soon in the future but also stressed that he is concentrating on his performance for the club.

“I have no idea about the team selection. But I do hope to get selected. I am now focused on performing for the club and if God wills, I will get the chance.”

According to Paite, playing in the AFC Cup for East Bengal has helped him improve as a player over the last 12 months or so.

“For Indian footballers, playing in the International tournaments is a big boon. Your standard of playing gets high once you play these tournaments. There are lots of things to learn," he mentioned.

Paite, a regular in the I-League for a few years now, quite surprisingly considers an Indian international to be the toughest opponent.

“Yes, I have played against some very good players. But Joaquim Abranches (of Dempo SC) is the toughest to play against. He is a very good ball-player and can become a threat to any opponent”, he concluded.

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