The winner of the AIFF Player of the Year award on Indian football, his injury sustained during the ugly clash during the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal clash, and his role as a leading star.
New Delhi: Star Indian footballer Rahim Nabi who got injured in the last derby match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, was recently voted the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Player of the Year. He spoke to IBNLive Sports about his thoughts on Indian football, his injury and its effects, the derby and also about his role in Indian football.
How does it feel to receive the AIFF player of the year award?
It feels good. I play for my club and country and try to put my best foot forward. So, getting the award is a reward for my hard work. Anybody would feel proud after getting this award.
What are your thought son the incident which occurred during the last derby? It is a huge shame for football. If this goes on then Indian football will reach nowhere. The bext generation will never come to football if this continues. Those who organized the match are more responsible than the police. That stone could have hit me anywhere and it could have ended my career. I could have died. Allah saved me.
What was the reaction of your family members?
They told me that they will not let me play football anymore. It was a derby match and one lakh ten thousand people came to see it. The match got suspended. This is an evil side of Indian football.
Do you believe that you can return to the field after six weeks?
I am not fit enough. It is not yet two weeks. I am not sure when I will be back. The most important thing is that there were so many foreigners that day in the stadium. They were at Eden Gardens to see an India v England Test match but came to Salt Lake Stadium to watch the derby. A wrong message has been conveyed to them.
How difficult is it for you to handle the situation as a footballer after facing such a life threatening injury?
In my entire career I have never been out of action for so long. I can't do anything, I can't go to practice. I know what is going inside me; I can't explain it in words. It is really painful. When they were taking me to the hospital the first thing came to my mind was that I will never play football again.
What do you want to say to the fans after this incident?
I want to tell the fans that do not do these things and do not spoil the spirit of the game. It gives shame to the supporters and to the club. Not only the police but other supporters themselves should take responsibility to prevent this. If they see someone doing anything wrong then they should force that culprit out of the stadium. Not abusively, but one should understand. I prefer playing in empty stadiums than abrasive supporters. We do not need such supporters.
Mohun Bagan did not play their last match against Pailan Arrows. They might face a ban for two years. What do you have to say on this?
I do not know what decision the federation will take. It is their call and I feel I should not comment on this. The federation knows what is right and what is wrong. Let us hope for the best.
Two weeks before you faced an incident which could have finished your career and now you are AIFF player of the year. Your thoughts?
As we say there are good things within the bad things. Similar thing happened to me. It really feels great and of course this award has given a boost to my confidence.
After Baichung Bhutia, you have become the face of Indian football. How do you look at this and what are your responsibilities as a senior pro?
I am happy to receive such responsibilities. I guide the junior players and share my experiences with them. It is good that we are no longer playing matches in empty stadiums and that the coach of the national team comes to watch matches. It is good for young players. It will help to develop young talent and they will feel that if we play well then we can get the attention.
What do you have to say on Mohun Bagan? It is almost established that this is completely an Odafa and Nabi based team ...
It is a team game, all 11 players have to contribute. I am not interested in what other people say but I know that we are trying hard together and there are many new players in the squad and it takes time to gel. Odafa is scoring so many goals but one should not forget that someone is providing him the ball.
Do you think that Karim Bencherifa is the right coach for Bagan?
Certainly. He is a professional coach. He has a great track record; teams have done well under him. He was Bagan's coach sometime back and he did well then. He has the quality.