The Hyderabad FC attacker spoke at length about Indian football, experience in ISL and more.
“Yes, because the first time Zico went to India and everybody in Brazil knew about Indian football.” There is a clear distinction that one could make between a marquee player who is in the Indian Super League (ISL) solely for money and the one who actually relishes competing in the country. Most of the ones who fall in the former category get into acquaintance with the league only once they have an offer in hand. Quite clearly, Marcelinho isn’t one of them. In an Instagram live session with Anant Tyagi, he further solidified this belief.
“I didn’t think twice to go for this experience,” said the Brazilian when asked about his first thoughts upon joining the ISL back in 2016. Marcelinho had been inducted into Delhi Dynamos back then.
That Dynamos team had the flair, charisma and a goal-scoring ability much akin to the FC Goa of today. “We were like Goa, we played quite similar and we should have continued but they changed everything for the next season…but it’s okay, it was very enjoyable,” he observed, diving deep into his first season in the league when Delhi had made it to the semi-finals.
The characters that squad possessed had shades of a formidable unit. Least of all, they played under the tutelage of former Juventus and FC Barcelona player Gianluca Zambrotta. “One of the best coaches I have worked with,” Marcelinho mentioned about the Italian gaffer. “Gianluca was very tactical, clever and intelligent. He is a young guy, so everything was fresh.”
More than anything, that team boasted of Chelsea stalwart Florent Malouda too. Marcelinho recalled an incident wherein the then Dynamos midfielder Memo rather glaringly gasped after looking at Malouda and joked about how he had witnessed the French international in FIFA whilst playing the game merely a couple of days ago. Such was Malouda’s enigma. “I am never going to forget this guy. He was like a leader for us. Never put pressure and tried to support every player,” the 32-year-old heaped praise on his former skipper.
Marcelinho’s journey with the Dynamos didn’t continue beyond that though. Interestingly, he claimed to have had an offer from a prominent club in Brazil. He even confirmed that Kerala Blasters did not make an official proposal to him. Eventually, the forward was lured in by FC Pune City who had a fruitful run until the semi-finals of that campaign. The former Atletico Madrid B player insisted, “We had a very good team to be champions that season.”
“We had a team to be champion with Ranko (Popovic) there. I had a good partnership with (Emiliano) Alfaro and Marcos Tebar. It was an amazing team, altogether,” Marcelinho reiterated. Even the relative success with Pune was short-lived though. The following season turned out to be their last one as the franchise was deemed defunct thereafter. The morale had sunk low already and the side finished in the seventh spot in the league table. “When we woke up, it was very late. So we played only for pride, for something nice in the end,” quoted the third-highest goal-scorer in the history of ISL.
With his exploits in the league, Marcelinho has earned several admirers from the opposition camp too. The Manjappada, in particular, have been ardent followers of the Brazilian and this affection is reciprocated by him on a very personal basis. He reflected, “Kerala have passion for football like Brazil. It is very interesting to see how they support, show their love for football. It is amazing. I try to be responsible with them. They send me many messages, so I try to respond to them.”
The rumours have been rife of him donning the yellow jersey ever since he left Delhi after 2016. Nonetheless, any move of that sort hasn’t transpired yet. However, the man hasn’t ruled out an alternative to shift sides to the team from down south in the future. “I am very open for the offers and if one day I have the opportunity to play in Kerala I will go. They have the best stadium, atmosphere in the league. All the players say this,” acclaimed the former ISL Golden Boot Winner.
Further, change of base from Pune to Hyderabad didn’t bring good fortunes to the setup. Incidentally, Marcelinho closely observed this scenario and the rocky transition too. Hyderabad FC managed to win only a couple of matches last season and finished at the bottom of the points table. The winger claimed, “Hyderabad is a new team, it takes time. We needed better preparation in the first season.”
He further pondered, “We had many injuries in the first few games. Our pitch, stadium had no quality in the first few games.” Marcelinho also admitted that Jamshedpur FC faced similar issues back when they were new to the ISL, but eventually the pitch conditions and stadium improved. “I am very sure Hyderabad in the future will be better than the first season,” the dynamic attacker professed. He acknowledged the rich talent available in the roster and hinted that better preparations in the future would yield greater results during the course of next seasons.
In addition to the aforementioned issues, Marcelinho quite remarkably has looked to have kept an eye out on certain young Indian players too. Ashique Kuruniyan and Vinit Rai are the couple of the players whom Marcelinho mentioned to have impressed him in the recent times. “He was very unlucky as the coach from Bengaluru puts him in the back,” he spoke of Ashique. “He can be effective as an offensive player and will give a lot to Indian football. But, we need to support him because he can’t take pressure. I like him a lot though, as a person, as a player also.”
Marcelinho further elaborated, “Vinit (Rai) has surprised me. When I play against him, I cannot touch the ball. I asked ‘Who is this guy?’ When he doesn’t have the ball he marks the opposition very well…He is getting better every season.”
The former FC Pune City attacker put forth his perspectives on a variety of issues. “First I have to pick a team,” the Brazilian international said when asked about his plans for the upcoming ISL season. He even prompted the AIFF to make a way in which PIOs could be included in the national team to attain better results.
Finally, he also promoted the view that some young players should grab an opportunity to play off-shores if such a chance arises. Throughout the conversation, Marcelinho raked of an individual who is well-aware of the Indian football ecosystem and also keen to make a contribution with respect to that. “I want to be forever connected with India,” he stated while concluding.