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Kerala Blasters' Cyril Kali - 'Kerala was a cultural shock for me'

11:06 AM GMT+8 01/08/2018
Kerala Blasters
The French centre-back revealed that the decision to sign for Kerala Blasters was not an easy one to take..

Kerala Blasters defender Cyril Kali is a family man who took the difficult decision to leave home for work so far away from home, to India

The 34-year-old French centre-back spent the entirety of his senior career in the Greece Super League after spending his youth years at French clubs AJ Auxerre and Lille OSC. 

Kali, who possesses a calm demeanour, needed to collect his thoughts before putting pen to paper for Kerala Blasters.

"I was a little stressed (before signing for Kerala Blasters) because I am leaving my wife and my children and they are the most important part of my life.  But I spoke with the coach and I was ready (to make the move)," narrated the French defender to Goal. And just like a player on his first sojourn so far away from home, he added, "When I first arrived here, it was a cultural shock for me. Because it is very different here."

One notable aspect of the Kochi-based club's recruitment this season has been the versatility of players. All the three foreign signings so far are accustomed to playing in various positions on the field.

Cyril Kali was used as a left-back by coach David James in the friendly against Melbourne City. Against Girona, he returned to his favoured position. "I have been learning to play everywhere on the pitch. But I really believe that I can contribute most as a centre-back. I am a coach's player. So I am ready to play anywhere."

Whether Kali will get to play his favoured role remains to be seen, as Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, Indian internationals Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan are all vying for the same position. "It is better to have more than not enough. For me, I can play other positions, that is not an issue," the defender shrugged away any concerns regarding a power struggle at Kerala Blasters' backline. 

So why did a family man choose to move to India to play for an Indian Super League (ISL) club? Kali answered, "I have seen many coaches in my life. I like David James, I would not speak good about him (just for the sake of it), I want to speak the truth.

"Until now, he has received me very well. Not just him, even his staff, they are very cordial. It was a good meeting with the coach," Kali said. 

The defender who hails from a country that has produced some of the finest talents in football also believes that Kerala Blasters captain Sandesh Jhingan can build a fantastic footballing career with the qualities that he has. 

"At first, I didn't know what level to expect (from the Indian players) but India has good young players.

"Sandesh Jhingan is quite a character, he is a man on the pitch and even outside it. I think he has every quality needed to make his career great," he opined. But Jhingan isn't the only player who has caught the eye of Kali.

"Seiminlen Doungel will provide maturity to this team. I saw him on and off the pitch, he is a great guy. We have quality players here at Kerala Blasters."

Cyril Kali will have a definitive role to play if Blasters are to achieve success this season. Can the silent warrior hold fort at the back?