The Mariners’ newest acquisition talks about returning to Indian football and his goals for the rest of the season.
Akram Moghrabi is a familiar name to Indian football fans. The 32-year-old forward has been plying his trade at Al Nejmeh, a club in Lebanon’s top tier league. He has also been in good scoring form in the Lebanon Premier League and has also featured for the Lebanon national team.
The 32-year-old has played in India before when he had a stint with Churchill Brothers in 2012. The Lebanese international has had good experience of the I-League as he scored 10 goals in 18 appearances for the Goan club last time out and played a pivotal role in helping the Red Machines win the title. Now he joins Mohun Bagan with the Mariners’ season in tatters and they will be hoping that getting in somebody of Moghrabi’s pedigree can help them salvage what has been a thoroughly underwhelming campaign so far.
After signing for Bagan, Akram has already applied for his Indian visa and the Bagan team management are expecting him to arrive by Wednesday or Thursday to try to feature in the season’s second Kolkata Derby on 21st January if he is fit and ready to go.
Moghrabi spoke excusively to Khel Now’s Kolkata Correspondent Sandip Roy revealing his goals for the upcoming stint in India. Excerpts:
Q: How does it feel after coming back to India following a gap of six years and that too returning to play for a big club like Mohun Bagan?
A- I’m very excited to have this chance again to play in India after six years and I’m honoured to be chosen by a big club like Mohun Bagan. I have played against them in 2012. It is a club with a huge fanbase. Inshallah! If everything goes by Allah’s grace I will do well.
Q: When did you last play for Al-Nejmeh in any competitive game?
A- My last match was against Al-Shabeb al Arabi of Lebanon in the Lebanese Premier League in Beirut on 6th January. It was an amazing match where I scored and helped Nejmeh to win and my contract then expired with Nejmeh.
Q: Last season East Bengal wanted you as their Asian quota player but your club Nejmeh did not release you. What happened there?
A- Yes, last year I was the top scorer in the league and Nejmeh wanted to qualify for the AFC Cup and their fixtures were approaching. So, our President did not want to release or loan me. But, I wanted to come back last season only for East Bengal as their officials fulfilled my expectations.
Q: Mohun Bagan are currently standing fifth in the points table and the next game is the Kolkata Derby. What will be your first target as you will only get to play nine more matches?
A- My premier target would be to score in the Kolkata derby and help my team to win. If we win it WILL be a great boost for the whole team ahead of the next few matches and who knows the tide may turn our way.
Q: As you may know you will be playing alongside Sony Norde. Norde has been the best player for Mohun Bagan and in the I-league in the last 2-3 seasons. How excited are you to play with him?
A- I’ve heard about him a lot and I’m so excited to play with him. I think we are going be a great team and if we both jell well it will do wonders for Bagan. Remember Norde plays on the left and he will bring in all the crosses for me and (Asier Dipanda) Dicka to score. So keeping my fingers crossed and hope we will do well for the team.
KN: Your first match for Bagan will be the big Kolkata Derby on 21st January. Will it be an added pressure for you playing your maiden game in front of a huge crowd of 70,000 spectators?
A- Actually, in Lebanon I played for Nejmeh who have the biggest fanbase in the country. So, I am already used to playing in front of big fans and I fit in perfectly under pressure. It won’t be pressure for me at all. The first and foremost thing would be to get accustomed to the team and conditions quickly as I won’t get much time.
Q: A small message for all Mohun Bagan fans.
A- My Mariners, I promise that I would never disappoint you and try to give the best for the club. I want all the fans to come and support the team even if we are going through a bad phase.