Gourmangi Singh has stayed the bedrock of Indian defence since 2006. The former AIFF Player-of-the-Year has been part of two Nehru Cup triumphs besides being a member of the AFC Challenge Cup winning squad. In a freewheeling interview with www.the-aiff.com, Gourmangi speaks at length about the ‘New India,’ under Wim Koevermans, his partnership with Raju Gaikwad, Sunil Chhetri’s purple patch, old pal Subrata Paul and his transition into a senior player. EXCERPTS:
With two wins on the trot the team spirit must surely be on a high.
The three points against Syria were very important for us. A win in the first match of any Tournament is always a morale booster. We combined well against Maldives but we cannot afford to bask in its glory. The focus has already shifted to our next match against Nepal. We are not thinking too far ahead.
How do you define the new team?
It is very early to comment on that. We are just two matches old under a philosophy and system brought in by our coach WimKoevermans. It has been just three weeks that we have been together. But I feel we have shown glimpses of what we are trying to do. This is a ‘New India’ for sure. The little success we have got so far is because every member of the team is giving his best for the cause. It’s pertinent that we recognise the contributions of the coaching staff, the support staff and the fans.
What’s been your assessment of the new Coach?
He is a very positive man. He has received a warm welcome from the players and is trying to instill a new philosophy into the team. We are learning a lot under him. This is the beginning of a new era. There are better days to come and this unit has it in them to go the distance.
Who has been the stand out performers for you so far?
For a moment, let’s leave aside the seniors – Sunil Chhetri, Rahim Nabi, Mehtab Hosain, Subrata Pal and myself — we have been talked about a lot. I feel it’s time to focus on someone like Francis Fernandes or a Lenny Rodrigues. They are playing so well. Take Francis’s cross to Sunil for example. It was top class – wasn’t it? Robin Singh complemented Sunil very well after he was brought in. It’s time these youngsters hog the limelight.
This phase is an emotional transition for someone like me – as I am no more a junior but have all of a sudden become a senior player, that too at 26. The responsibility obviously, has increased.
Sunil Chhetri is in tremendous form. If you were to stop him, what would you have done?
(Gourmangi busts into laughter)… Sunil has been in exceptional form and has been scoring at those important phases. That’s what we need from him. He is a great guy to have you in your side. He can lift up the spirits very fast. We share a great rapport. Talking of stopping him (laughs again)…well our rivals would be listening, so why should I reveal. (laughs again). Let the other teams think about him.
You also share a great camaraderie with Subrata Pal since the TFA days. How much does he add confidence to the team?
His consistency is laudable. He is a very energetic goalkeeper and anticipation is very good. He is my best mate and we are sharing the same room. The team depends on him and he never lets us down. I’m looking forward to playing with him together for Prayag United when the clubs season unfolds.
You have played with different partners in the central defence for the Indian Team. What is special about your understanding Raju Gaikwad.
He is one of the best centre backs who have come up the ranks. After Mahesh (Gawli), he is the pick of the lot. He echoes a lot of confidence in defence and leads the pack of a very talented new generation which will rule Indian football in the next decade. Mahesh Gawli has always stayed my idol as a stopper back and I grew up watching him. I miss him very much as much I miss Bhaichung Bhutia and others.
How much has Gourmangi Singh matured over the years?
Football stays my life. I have always wanted to play football and I’m happy I’m able to chase my dream. I play with passion and chase my dream. There’s still so much to learn.
By Debayan Mukherjee,
AIFF Media Team