By Ayush Srivastava
One of the stalwarts of Bob Houghton’s reign as Indian national team coach, Mehrajuddin Wadoo has been on the Indian circuit for more than a decade.
He has seen several transitions in Indian football, be it the National Football League (NFL), the I-League or the newly formed Indian Super League (ISL).
The defender though, who represented India in the 2011 Asian Cup, thinks that things will finally change for the better with the introduction of the new professional championship. He told Goal, “I think this (ISL) is something different. I think this will bring a change in the development of football in the country. It will bring in new sponsors and corporate support, new coaches from outside, so I definitely think it will help.”
The FC Pune City player was also particularly happy with how well the players were being treated by the franchisee and felt it would further motivate players to perform to the best of their abilities. He mentioned, “When we arrived here, the management was very nice. They have made us very comfortable, they want to be close to the players to know their problems and when you do this the players want to give back. This is how players give results in Europe, because they (clubs) know the problems of players and solve them. The players realize that they have to give something back.”
Wadoo, being one of the first players to sign on for the IMG-Reliance league, infact went on to praise the treatment the players have received ever since they signed up for the ISL, highlighting it as one of the big differences between it and the I-League.
“As players, we are very happy with the facilities. Last year we had a training camp in Mumbai by IMG-Reliance, and it was really nice. We were very happy with the kind of atmosphere that was created and the way they were treating the players.”
“(In contrast) Let’s talk of last year, I was with Mohammedan Sporting and we had won two trophies but ultimately we got relegated from the I-League. This was because of the problems with the management. They didn’t pay the salaries on time and this demoralized players,” he continued.
“With IMG, when we signed the contract last year, they told us (that we shall) will play in the I-League but it didn’t happen for some players while it did happen for some players. But the rest of the players atleast got salaries on time. And I am not saying salaries is everything as they want to play, but atleast they are getting paid. Such things are good for Indian football,” he added, while talking on the sidelines of the FC Pune City’s jersey launch.
However, the former Indian International did admit that he and several players were worried when the ISL was postponed last year and had difficulties in finding regular club football. He revealed, “I was worried personally as I was not getting clubs. They (IMG) told us that they will get us a club and we did not realize that the clubs would turn against IMG and refuse to co-operate, but luckily we got to play for Mohammedan Sporting.”
With the ISL all set to kick-off in October this year, Wadoo is optimistic about the success of the league, and is sure they shall keep building on it, in the future. He opined, “I think this is the beginning and we have to go step by step. We have to let it go the way they have planned it. If this year it is successful, next year they can add things.”
The FC Pune City defender though, hopes that the Indian football schedule is curated in the future, to prevent a burnout of players. He said, “For a player it is a bit hectic. The players do get fatigued but I think there can be some tournaments they can cut-off from Indian football once this league is successful and they can compensate for it. Because if this league is happening for development of football then players should get to spend maximum time with ISL (franchisees) so that they can give their best.”
Having distinguished himself as a reliable national team player, Wadoo was part of the best squads that India had under the previous regime. He has noted with concern the downturn in results of late, and spoke of his surprise after India lost 2-0 to Pakistan in an U-23 friendly recently.
“I heard (about) the result and it was kind of shocking. When I was with the national team for six years we would never lose to SAFF countries. But it does happen sometimes but we have to put in a lot of work.
“It (recent results) is disappointing. It is kind of a downfall (in the performances). We played in Asian Cup in 2011 and the graph was very high. Slowly the graph is coming down and I don’t have anything to say. The coach (Wim Koevermans) will know better and the management might have better plans. This is a very tough phase we are going through. We have to forget about losing to Pakistan and try to minimize the mistakes and get the best results possible,” he concluded.