The forward scored a hat-trick in the Kolkata Derby last season.
ATK Mohun Bagan youngster Kiyan Nassiri had attracted plenty of attention even before the Indian Super League (ISL) season began due to his obvious connections with former legendary footballer Jamshid Nassiri.
Son of the former Iranian forward, who is considered one of the best foreign players to ever grace Indian football, young Kiyan Nassiri was always under the spotlight.
Come the end of the Hero ISL campaign, Kiyan Nassiri continued to hog the limelight but not as a son of a former great but as a young budding Indian forward that has a bright future ahead of him.
Through his performances, mostly coming off the bench, Kiyan carved out a separate identity for himself and became a household name in Kolkata after his hat-trick in the Kolkata derby last season.
Ahead of the new season, the 21-year-old is looking ahead to a longer football season and is keen to improve on his performances from last season as ATK Mohun Bagan chase multiple trophies.
Kiyan Nassiri gave an exclusive interview to ISL Media as he spoke about his objectives for the upcoming campaign, new additions to the Mariners camp and a lot more.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
After your Hero ISL debut season, which included a remarkable hat-trick in the Kolkata Derby, how has your life and approach on the field changed? Do opponents now plan better for you?
Since January 29, 2022, after the Kolkata Derby, I think for me personally only a few aspects have changed. I still do the same things I would before. I am definitely more grateful to my team, our supporters and the club for all the love and support they showered on me. I also feel that now I must work harder and do better each day because I want to do better than I did last season.
When it comes to the opponents preparing better for me, I just feel that now they recognise me when I’m on the field, which is always a great feeling to have.
Last season, your coach relied more on you in the big matches. Are you enjoying this added responsibility in the team, or does it add more pressure?
Of course, I enjoy it. This is what I’m here to do. I’m here to play. I’m here to show the coach and team that if I work hard and can gain their faith to put me on the field I will give it my all each time, all the time.
It is my responsibility to play under this pressure and I hope I can carry that out well. For me now, the bar is set higher and I am going to have to push harder.
What’s your target in the upcoming season, which is going to be longer with more cup tournaments being part of it? How beneficial is it for young footballers like you?
I feel like every day is a chance for me to excel and evolve while being true to the game and my team. So my target for this season would be to work harder, be better and grow as a player.
Playing more competitive games at different tournaments I believe would be extremely beneficial to me because I hope to get more game time here and adjust with the team and play more efficiently together for the season to come. A longer season also gives us time to recover and learn from any mistakes we might make, so I’m certain it’ll be a good, long season ahead.
Two new overseas defenders are going to join your defence lineup in the coming season, Florentin Pogba and Brendan Hamill. Do you think they are going to make your defence stronger in the next Hero ISL season?
Of course! There’s a reason they are here and once we as a team set the vibration and get on the same tandem, we’re going to do great as a team.
Pogba has been regularly playing in European club football and MLS as well. He is coming to ATKMB with a large amount of experience. As a youngster, what are you looking forward to learning from him?
I believe every player in the team has had different experiences and they all teach me a distinctly different thing.
For me, it is a great honour to play beside a player like Flo who is coming out of the big leagues in European football and the MLS, but this is not just because of where he comes from but because of the experience he will carry with him and the exposure it will give me.
What’s your take on India’s recent success in the Asian Cup 2023 qualifying round? How hopeful are you about India’s success in the finals? Do you think you can make the cut to the team and what will you have to do to achieve that?
A big congratulations to the team and I send them all my power and strength to go well in the next round and further as well. I am extremely hopeful about their success because they are working tirelessly and I am certain they will deliver.
I do believe it’s going to be hard to make the team because I’m competing with the best in the country at my age, but that’s what I am here for. To work hard and achieve my dream. To represent the country is what I truly wish for so I’ll do what it takes to get there.
You have to take part in the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semi-final as well, which is going to take place in Kolkata. Do you think playing in front of a home crowd will increase your chances of reaching the Inter-Zonal Final?
We played our group stage matches at VYBK after playing all previous matches behind closed doors for an entire season. So it was refreshing and nothing compares to a full home stadium.
It’s an absolutely astounding and different feeling to play on your home turf with your home crowd backing your team. So yes, to play in front of your home crowd brings you much more power and strength to do well and fight not just for the men on the field with me but for every single person in the stands that are backing us.