NEW DELHI: Lenny Rodrigues belongs to that Category of players who do not hog the limelight too often but at the same time leave their mark silently while playing for their Team. The ‘Best Midfielder’ of I-League 2012-13 credits National Team Coach Wim Keovermans for the transformation in him as a Player. In a freewheeling interview to www.the-aiff.com, Lenny, who played a stellar role in Churchill Brothers’ I-League triumph, spoke at length on the influence of National Coach Wim Koevermans on his life, Modern-day Football, his equation with Mehtab Hossain and much more. EXCERPTS:
What does the Best Midfielder Award mean to you?
I was thrilled and would like to thank the Almighty for my success. This Award is significant as it caps off a successful season for me — both for my Club and Country.
What goes through mind when you reflect back?
I think my hard work is finally paying off. It may sound clichéd but that’s the truth. I am a firm believer of putting your head down and doing your job. I am a quiet person and like to keep to myself. I believe in getting the job done and obviously it’s motivating when your efforts get recognised.
What clicked for you last season?
I have been doing a lot of running around. I believe Modern Football is about how much ground you have covered on the Football Pitch. As a Defensive Midfielder, I have to work overtime. I am working hard on my tackling.
Whom do you dedicate this award to?
I have to dedicate it to National Team Coach Wim Koevermans.
Why is that?
Wim-Sir is like a father figure to me. I’m what I am today purely because of him. He has had a big influence in my Playing Career. Being an integral part of last year’s Nehru Cup winning Squad was a dream come true for me. I took off from there. Under Wim-Sir I learnt the art of passing the ball and how to keep shape as a Midfielder. He boosted my confidence; so much so, that off the field, I am a much more confident individual. I owe everything to Koevermans.
Can you throw some light on keeping shape as a midfielder?
For example, Mehtab (Hossain) and myself were the two Holding Midfielders during the Nehru Cup. Wim-Sir taught us to always be on our toes and not concede the second ball. If one misses, the other catches up.
Coordination between the two of us was very important and in every Training Session he focused on that. He told us that we were the focal point of the team and that passing accurately was of paramount importance. One should go for every ball and not relax at any point of time.
Even Francis (Fernandes) or Clifford (Miranda) or Nabi-da (Rahim), or someone else — whoever plays, one cannot be relaxing on the field.
Wim-Sir is full of positive vibes. He made me feel so important. He told us not to back pass and always be on the lookout for a good through ball. As I said, a Midfielder needs to work overtime, attack as well as defend. I learnt it all from Wim-Sir and am reaping the dividends today.
Looking ahead, what next for Lenny Rodrigues?
I would like to win the Federation Cup. I have won the I-League, the IFA Shield and the Durand Cup. I have been fortunate to have worked under good Coaches and have learnt a lot but I still have Miles to go.