Dempo Sports Club have had a phenomenal run in the year notching up 15 points from a possible 18 as they head into the final three games looking to finish the season in style. One man crucial to their amazing run since the resumption of the I-League has been Tolgay Ozbey.
The Australian has scored or assisted in every game the Golden Eagles have won, which also included his spectacular four goals in the last match against Churchill Brothers.
Goal caught up with the Australian as he talks about how the move to Dempo has been beneficial to him as under the tutelage of Arthur Papas, he looks back to his best.
Goal: How has life in Dempo been so far?
It’s been very good. I have a coach (Arthur Papas) who understands what role a striker should be playing. I have a lot of teammates who help me score my goals. We have a great team, we have a very good system and our position in the table shows that, and I am really enjoying my football here.
Goal: The last game against Churchill saw you scoring four goals.
I believe I was very fortunate in the last game. I had the opportunity to score goals. A lot of people only see what the attack does in recent weeks we have been very successful due to our defense. If you look at the number of goals we have conceded it’s very minimal. So I believe it’s our whole team, it’s not only the goals that have been scored. It’s how well we are defending as a team. I believe our team is just encouraged as a whole as we are understanding more of what the coach wants. I think that is a big reason for success.
Goal: You were not really playing well at Mohammedan Sporting while at Dempo you have flourished. What has worked for you at Dempo?
Whoever was in-charge there (Mohammedan Sporting) told me that I should play as a winger which did not suit me very well. What Arthur [Papas] has done is he has looked back at my history and looked at the goals I have scored in East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. All he has really done is put me as a striker here. He understands my game, he is very firm with me in what he wants and I’m very thankful that I have been able to live up to that. I hope it continues in the next three matches.
Goal: How is the team shaping up for the last three games?
For me the last three games, we are in a position where we can finish in the top three. If you look at some of the teams that are going to play each other, East Bengal versus Pune twice, Dempo versus Pune, all the top teams have to play each other. We have to play against Bengaluru. I believe if we do our job, we don’t need to rely on other results and we can come into the top three. We have got three games to go; we want nothing less than seven or nine points. We will be targeting nine points.
Goal: Has the I-League improved since last season?
The I-League has improved since last year. It has improved a lot since I came to India as well. You know I remember last year when we used to go to certain matches and we know that we are going to win the match, it’s not like that anymore. Anybody can beat anybody. If you have a look at the points table, the top team has not as many points as last year, or the top two or the top three. I think the league is strengthened and it’s only better for Indian football, as they strengthen bit by bit.
Goal: Are Bengaluru FC now a role model perhaps considering their success on and off the field?
Bengaluru tried to do everything as the same level as what’s done in a lot of professional countries and I believe in India are on that route as well, trying to do things better, trying to improve. It’s not going to happen overnight but bit by bit it will get there.
Goal: Who do you think are the favourites to win the I-League this year?
It’s hard to say that Bengaluru are not favourites, but East Bengal have games in hand and Bangaluru have three away matches. They have been consistent in a lot of matches, that’s why they are at the top, but I definitely think Bengaluru are the favourites. It is going to be tough for them also, because of the away matches. They obviously have to play us as well and we are in good form.
Goal: What does your future at Dempo look like?
You know credit to Dempo and my coach Arthur, who were kind enough and trustful enough to see that I am somebody who can score goals. So I am very faithful to them, I am speaking to Dempo Club at the moment. We will see how it goes but I am enjoying myself here, no doubt about it. I am scoring goals and our team is winning, and there is nothing why I can’t work with that.