The veteran has represented the three giants of Kolkata – Mohammedan Sporting, East Bengal, and Mohun Bagan.
It is always refreshing to hear the legends of a certain sport speak about the state of their game and offer their perspective on several facets. Accordingly, former Indian captain Victor Amalraj took part in a live chat on Hyderabad FC’s official Facebook page.
Victor Amalraj is undoubtedly a stalwart of the game. He has turned out for the three biggest clubs in West Bengal- Mohammedan Sporting, East Bengal, and Mohun Bagan and led the Indian national team in his distinguished career. Following in the footsteps of his brother John, who himself was a well-known player, Victor moved to Calcutta from Hyderabad at a nascent age in the hope of carving a successful footballing career.
After spending 14 years plying his trade at the most sacred footballing institutions in the state, Amalraj is no stranger to their surreal football culture. He cited the vital role of his brother in his footballing journey, before speaking about the invaluable exposure and opportunities that were available to budding players back then in Calcutta.
“Those days, Calcutta is the Mecca of Indian football. People loved to play at these big clubs. I was fortunate that my elder brother John used to play for Mohammedan Sporting and East Bengal, so he was a mentor and my brother pushed me there to play in Calcutta where you will get more green pastures, good publicity, and you could play for the country if you go to Calcutta,” Amalraj remarked.
He also touched upon the importance of the numerous football tournaments that took place across the country in each state during his playing days. The presence of these tournaments created a footballing culture that Amalraj thinks ‘has been vanished.’ Furthermore, he reminisced about playing in front of jam-packed stadiums, where fans created an electrifying atmosphere that fueled their love for the game.
“The amount of crowd in Bombay at the Cooperage and in Calcutta at the Eden Gardens, almost 80,000 were there. In Delhi, Durand Cup, Rovers Cup, the crowd used to make us feel like it is an India-Pakistan cricket match. So, we were so committed, we had passion, we were loyal and gave our best for whichever team we played.”
With the popularity, stature, and standard of football steadily rising in the Indian Super League, Amalraj believes that this is an excellent opportunity for youngsters, as they already have a platform and do not have to move elsewhere in search of chances to play the game at a professional level.
The Indian Super League also provides local players the chance to learn from others who have played at the highest level and they can share their experience with these young talents, helping them in their development. Amalraj hopes that the young lads do not squander such wonderful opportunities and that they work tirelessly to reach their goals.
He opined, “It was very challenging you know. This generation should not take for granted. They should have commitment and passion. You cannot take for granted. We used to work for a minimum of three hours and a maximum four hours we used to do the practice. More professionalism has come in modern football, so they should work hard. Then only they can reach that level.”
The legendary Indian proceeded to highlight the noticeable quality of a few of the players in the ISL, even though he recognizes that some of them are on their last legs. However, he still thinks that there is a lot to learn for the younger crop from these names.
“Most of the players I have watched in the ISL are quality players, though they have lost their prime age, they are almost at their retiring age but top players are coming and playing in the ISL league. Lot of things this new generation can learn from that. They should take advantage of this,” Victor Amalraj concluded.