The FC Pune City defender says the team are looking forward to the rest of the season…

Gouramangi Singh, with the experience he has behind him can comfortably be considered a veteran in Indian football. A product of the Tata Football Academy, Gouramangi has played in over 60 games for India and has been a part of the National Football League, then the rebranded I-League and currently plies his trade with Indian Super League side FC Pune City.

He has won almost everything there is to win, both at club and national level. At 30, though, the centre-back from Manipur considers himself lucky to be part of transition period in Indian football.

The defender sat down exclusively with Khel Now’s Miqdad Haider to talk about Pune’s fortunes so far, his career to date and what the future holds for Indian football. Excepts.

Q- What do you think has gone wrong so far for Pune in defence? You’ve conceded a goal every game so far.

A- It’s something that I always follow, a principle I like to believe, that when you want to become a footballer, you win as a team, you lose a team. To attack, we start from the defence. I’m not trying to defend why we conceded the goals but it all starts from the defence.

They said we’ve scored few goals, but it’s not just the attackers to be blamed but also the defenders. We too need to contribute to build up or create an opportunity. At the half way stage, we were bottom of the table, that’s a fact, but I’d like to believe that two wins in a row can change the whole scenario.

The kind of goals we conceded, on a given day, yes we need to play better on the pitch, saying that, I think we need a little bit of luck. At times, you can win even when you’ve not played well. At times, we’ve been dominating but we haven’t been winning. Hopefully we can put (this behind us) and move on. I look forward to the rest of the games and hopefully things will change.

Q- How much did not having Antonio Habas on the touchline impact the side at the beginning of the season? A 4-game ban is practically 1/3rd of the season in the ISL.

A- I don’t believe in that because what has happened in the last few weeks, there’s no point in looking back now. Definitely, we can learn things that’ll be useful for me and the team. He’s the boss, and him not being there had some effect but there’s no point discussing it. He’s the boss and when he’s not around you feel like (you’re lost), but that phase is gone and let’s look forward.

Q- After a poor first half of the season, how do you approach the rest of the games as a team?

A- It’s another opportunity. You can’t be too happy or joyous or too disappointed. It’s another opportunity. Every 3-4 days there’s a match. If you do well, you celebrate that night and that’s it. You have to control your emotions.

The schedule is the same for everyone; everyone’s learnt to deal with that. I don’t think anyone’s complaining about it. Whatever comes, we take it (on) and prepare for it. It’s for everyone.

Q- You have come from the Tata Football Academy and it has proved to be a great place for developing youngsters. What are they doing so well that sets them apart from other such academies?

A- I think nowadays football is a very progressive game. A lot of youngsters are taking interest, which is positive for the country. I think Tata Football Academy started in ’87. If you look back it was only TFA that was a residential, just for football academy and in those days, the best training was given there.

Most of the ISL clubs have their youth setups now and even the AIFF and a lot of others too. So, a lot of people are investing in this. The opportunities that the kids are getting now weren’t there except Tata. (Earlier) They were the only ones putting in effort to train the youngsters. I spent four very important formative years there.

Q- You went on trial at Melbourne Heart in 2010. So, you must have had a first-hand experience of Australian football. What are the features of Australian football in terms of development of players and the league that India could employ?

A- India today is a very different India. I’m lucky to be part of the transition period. What you do off the pitch, the whole organisational part. The media, the sponsors, everyone is involved off the pitch to make sure that everything’s okay on the pitch. For a match tomorrow, so many people are involved to make sure the match goes okay.

So, this organisation that we see today was there in cricket (since) a few years ago. But this environment was already there in Australia. They are little ahead of us, let’s put it that way but I think we are going towards this. I hope this keeps going forward and forward.

Q- India currently has two leagues, the ISL and the I-League, something that needs to be sorted out. What do you think should be the path ahead for the two leagues?

A- The league has to be for a longer time, with more teams. Whatever it is, has to be 7-8 months. (The format of the league).The AIFF and all have to sit down and come to a mutual understanding eventually for the future of Indian football. What is is in the best interests of the coming generation, they need to sort it out. A 7-8 month long league is the only way forward.

Q- The facilities provided to the youngsters have improved immensely in comparison to when you had started playing professionally for Dempo. What have you made of it?

A- I haven’t even had the time due to our own practices to go down and see, but I’d love to see our (youth) team. I’ve been hearing a lot from U14, U15s. They have a good future. Not only have the facilities, but the kind of coaches, foreign and Indian coaches has improved. Why do you wish to go to the best school and college? Because people believe it’s the best place to learn. We believe they give us the best learning. It’s the same for the coaches. So, many things are happening now and we’re on the right track.

Q- What do you feel it is that Stephen Constantine does right? He was relatively successful in his first stint and now again he’s lead India to their highest standing since 2010?

A- To be very honest, it would be wrong to talk about it as I haven’t been part of the setup since he’s come back. In the first spell, I was fortunate to start my youth career under him. But now, I’m not part of the dressing room. To continue to improve, we need to keep playing friendlies, and tournaments.

Q- How big an impact do you think the U-17 FIFA World Cup will have on Indian football?

A- Once the ISL gets over, we’ll have 9-10 months before the World Cup. It’s the best thing for this generation of U-16 and U-17s. It’s a big event, for any sportsman. I remember the SAFF Games, playing in the Asian Championships in Abu Dhabi, it’s a different thing. You’re going to be playing the World Cup and 30 something teams are coming to India and you’re going to be part of that event. It’s a huge event, a world event. For the players, you can’t ask for more at 16 and 17. Playing in the World Cup is the biggest tournament of the year. At 16-17, playing the World Cup, that too at home and giving your best.

Everyone wants India to do well, maybe for economic reasons or for various reasons. When everyone wants us to do well and grow, I think we need to take this opportunity.

Q- Lastly, have you set any personal goals for yourself for 2017?

A- I only look at tomorrow, live in the day and try to be available for selection for the rest of the games.