Star Odisha FC forward Aridane Santana has stated he would always be there to help out the potential likes of Daniel Lalhimpuia and Seiminmang Manchong to grow further. The towering Spaniard also reflected on the relentless travelling one has to do in ISL across varying weather conditions.
ISL viewers got a taste of what young Daniel Lalhimpuia is capable of yesterday at Pune’s Balewadi Stadium when the 22-year-old received the ball at the edge of the box. He had a flock of ATK defenders waiting behind him as he made a quick turn. He evaded the towering Carl McHugh with his quick feet, to begin with, before negotiating his maze inside the box with some brilliant show of dribbling.
He had the fans, his teammates, as well as the commentators on the edge of their seats before eventually fluffing his shot and the ball rolled slowly for Arindam Bhattacharya to pick up. The commentators were quick to hail his effort as the “almost goal of the tournament”, and head coach Josep Gombau knew then and there that he had gotten a trusted backup in the No.10 position for Xisco Hernandez.
While Daniel was a regular last season for Delhi Dynamos, the likes of Xisco Hernandez and Jerry Mawihmingthanga assured that he was more of a bench player this time. Apart from him, Odisha’s reserve forward line also has 19-year-old Seiminmang Manchong, who has made the jump from the junior side.
And to their good fortune, they have a seasoned striker like Aridane Santana available in training, who has no qualms in helping them grow week in week out. “Manchong and Daniel have big potential and they are doing a great job. To become great means to sacrifice a lot and those two are on the right path. I am here because I am hugely experienced and I hope to help them always to grow,” said Santana in an exclusive interview with SportsCafe.
After a horror show by Serbia’s Andrija Kaludjerovic, who was largely responsible for Gombau’s underwhelming season last time around, Santana has been like a breath of fresh air for Odisha with his ability to score regularly. Scoring three goals in four matches, the Spanish recruit has been one of the top scorers on the league now.
However, while his sturdy and gigantic figure have seemingly helped him settle in India very easily, Santana has revealed that he has found it challenging and exciting at the same time after playing in the likes of Spain and Thailand.
“Four years ago I was in Thailand before I returned to Spain. Then, when I got a chance to come to India, I knew there were many Spanish players and I felt like I could try to experience abroad once more. India is a growing country and growing league and I was very excited to come to India.
“So far, I have been enjoying very much. India has everything different from that of Spain and Thailand and the local Indian players coming here have been quality. It’s challenging here,” Santana added.
However, one wouldn’t discount the contributions of Jerry and Nandhakumar Sekar from the flanks while celebrating Santana. The two wingers have been quintessential to Gombau’s tactics as their attack primarily starts with the wide men penetrating the opponents’ defence and putting in dangerous crosses, and Santana stated the same.
“Both of them are having a lot of minutes so far and they have allowed the whole team to develop football from up front. They are quick and can cross the ball very well. We three are very compact, which is rightly reflected on the pitch,” said Gombau.
Unlike his teammates like Marcos Tebar or Francisco Dorronsoro, this has been Santana’s first season in the Indian Super League and the extreme travelling, which ranges from Maharashtra to the NorthEast United could be extremely taxing for the uninitiated. India’s varying climate in different states makes it even more difficult but Santana believes that it is his job as a professional to adapt fast.
“It’s true that I feel big changes in different cities. But, as a professional, we have to adapt to different weather conditions as fast as possible. That’s one of the handicaps of this sport but that’s what I have to do. Adapt quick and be as efficient as possible,” he signed off.