Mandar Rao Dessai has come a long way for FC Goa since the inception of the Indian Super League (ISL), having completed over 100 apperances in the league. He is the only Indian player to have featured for the same club in all seasons of the ISL so far.
But Mandar's contract at Goa is coming to an end soon and the player is coy on an extension.
"I have played for this club for six years and also completed my 100 games here. Obviously, I have learned a lot from this club and the people who work with the club and the players came in when I was there. Now, let's see how it goes. Maybe I will extend the contract," he told Goal.
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The 2019 Super Cup winner earned his maiden international cap under India head coach Igor Stimac as a left full-back in the goalless draw against Qatar in July 2019, despite being called up to national team camps by former national team coach Stephen Constantine in the days he played as a left winger.
Dessai credits the fullfilment of his India dream to former FC Goa head coach Sergio Lobera who transistioning him into a left-back two seasons back.
"A big thank you to Sergio, actually, because he believed more than me when he told me that 'you will do better in this position'. He told me that it will take some time but after few games, you will be comfortable in this position.
"After few games it was getting easier for me. I asked the coach so many times what I should do better. I have also learned from my own videos and everyday I like to improve myself," he said.
FC Goa became the first Indian side to claim a berth in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League group stage but failed to make it past the ISL play-offs last season.
"When Sergio came in three years ago, the team had a lot to achieve," Dessai reminisced. "From the very start, we wanted to win trophies and we have been in the top-four five times from the six seasons. So this is really good for the team.
"We have two trophies, the Super Cup and now the (ISL) League Winners Shield. We really wanted to win the ISL after losing the final last year. When the league decided that the winner of the regular season gets the AFC Champions League group stage, we had to fight for two trophies. We achieved the first goal and despite giving our best, we were out in the semi finals," he deplored.
It was in 2019, during the off-season, that the player decided to do his own bit for the potential talent of the next generation with the launch of the MRD 7 Campus that aims to coach kids aged 8-10 on the basics of football.
"We were supposed to have a one-and-half-month camp for the kids this year also but have kept it on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak," Dessai informed. "We basically concentrate on grassroots, like kids under 10. I know that we did not have anything at the grassroot level when I was small. So concentrating at this level is more important."
Stressing on how his campus differs from grassroot programs held by local clubs, he continued, "They (clubs) have a lot of kids as they can cater to the number. I mostly keep our number to less than 30 so that the kids get proper attention from the coaches. My brothers and friends help me in the venture."
"There are some boys, especially from schools, for whom we hold camps and select kids depending on who can play right now and who have to learn from scratch," he added.
Finally, a word of advise from the Goan star to maintain social distancing due to the coronavirus outbreak, he urged, "Everyone have to take care of themselves. If the World Health Organisation (WHO) has told people to stay home, it's because it's good for all of us. We need to break the chain (of the pandemic)."