The midfielder also reiterated his desire to play for the national team and called for better facilities for the rehabilation of injured players who are out of contract.
As the Indian Super League (ISL) reaches its business end, the battle for the Top four gets even tougher with teams scratching and crawling to cross the line. It has been a good season for FC Pune City though. The Stallions would want to continue their good run of form so far and seal a maiden playoff berth which has underlined the team’s inconsistency over the previous seasons.
This season, the team comprises of some good overseas signings in Marcelinho, Emiliano Alfaro among others while the Indian boys in Baljit Sahni, Adil Khan, Gurtej Singh and shot-stopper Vishal Kaith have been equally instrumental in the team’s rise.
Centre-back Adil Khan has been quite impressive for the Stallions this season. The dogged and bustling defensive midfielder who can also play in the back four has been one of the most consustent performers this campaign. The Pune player managed to take some time out of his busy schedule and speak to Khel Now’s Pune correspondent Pradyumna Tembhekar.
This has been a season of rejuvenation for Adil Khan
The once curly locked player first learnt the ropes at Vasco SC before his parents enrolled him at the famous SESA Football Academy which has churned out an unending line of young Goan talents. “I started playing football in my village when I was 13 years. I played in an U-13 team for one year, then at the U-15 level for Vasco. After that, I joined the SESA Football Academy for five years. There I grew as a player and decided to make a career in football.”
On being asked about what motivated him to take up football as a profession, Adil Khan mentioned a special friend of his who always encouraged him to take up the sport as a career. “I had a friend named Jack Dorado, when I used to play football in my village. He used to motivate me, give me that extra push to work harder and guide me on the lines of my upbringing as a footballer.”
“It would be unfair if I don’t mention him in my journey as a footballer. Before joining the academy I didn’t realize that I could make a career out of this sport,” he added.
In the inaugural edition of the ISL, Khan plied his trade for Delhi Dynamos. He expressed his opinions about the changes in the league from then to now. “In the 2014 edition, there was a lot of hype around the tournament. It was a new feeling for all of us. The foreign players used to lead the team around as we were a bit inexperienced,” he reflected.
“Now three years down the line, I feel all the Indian boys are responding to the game equally, in fact, in a much more responsible manner. The boys, now, have improved a lot and have the confidence to perform well. They are scoring goals and getting more involved into the game then they used to be in Season 1. So, everything’s going well for us.”
Adil has been an integral part of Ranko Popovic’s plans this season
Adil’s performance has been a talking point in the footballing fraternity this season. Even Pune’s coach Ranko Popovic is a huge admirer of the midfielder’s abilities. The 29-year old reflects back on his performance so far.
“This might be the best season of my career if we manage to finish it on a high note (By the grace of Allah). I have played for almost 10 years now. Although, I have had injury concerns in 3-4 seasons, I performed my best in my earlier seasons as well,” he pointed out
“Here in the ISL, things get more highlighted and I have tried to bring the best out in me. Also, the ISL is the top league in India now. There is more hype, more importance. So, on a personal level, this is my third comeback and I’m happy that I have performed well till now.”
The former Dynamos midfielder also spoke about the importance of having a great coach like Ranko Popovic and his impact on the team. “So far, we (as a team) have done well. The coach is very inspiring. He helps us to stay focused and stay motivated all the time. [and not to relax despite the fact that we are in the top four]. As we are getting to the business end of the tournament, all teams Bengaluru, Goa, Kerala are playing well. He motivates us to keep that winning spirit intact.”
“Yes the foreign signings have been of great importance to the side. Marcelinho, Alfaro, (Marcos) Tebar they are all experienced. They have played in different leagues around the world and also in the ISL previously. So, help to make the team bond stronger and for them to do to the best of their abilities,” said Khan praising the club;s influential foreign troika
Although, a defensive midfielder, Adil has managed to score those vital goals during games, which have been an invaluable contribution to the team. “I think I always had that ability. In the I-League, things were a bit reserved. If you play as a defensive midfielder (my position) you needed to stay back and cover your position. Here in the ISL, if I have the ball at my feet, I can make a run into the box and if possible pull the trigger,” he explained
“Thankfully, I have scored three back-to-back goals and it is always a plus for any DM. I know Tebar will be covering me so I have that freedom to make those occasional runs towards the box. This was not the case in the I-league to be honest.”
Khan thinks ISL have helped the Indian players to develop in the recent years
The Pune midfielder also spoke about how the change in team composition has helped the cause of Indian football as a whole. “Earlier the Indian players used to play only on the wings and in that way, we would fill up the numbers on the team sheet. But now, we are playing everywhere as you can see, Midfielders, strikers, wingers, defenders. Even most of the teams are having Indian goalkeepers. So, this is a major boost for the development of Indian football as well as the Indian national team,” he opined
Before the start of ISL 2017/18, India played host to the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The Indian U-17 team’s performance on such a big stage impressed Adil and he wished the young guns the very best for their future. “Yes, I followed the FIFA U-17 World Cup held recently as we were having our preseason preparations here. It was a great opportunity for the young boys to don the national colours and represent India in a World Cup. They were very hard-working and I hope they can reach greater heights in the near future.”
On being asked about how he planned to get back into the national fold, Khan explained, “It’s all upto the coach (Stephen Constantine). I have played well in recent times and will continue to do so in the future. I got the national call-up a long time back, but I was very inexperienced during those days. Also, injuries have been a major hindrance to my career. Now, I am more mature, both as a player and as a human being. So, let’s see.”
The past few years has seen Indian football take an upward trajectory in all aspects and Adil agreed with the assertion. “Indian football is undergoing a developing phase. This is a very healthy move for the development of the sport in India. However, if I had to change one thing/introduce/improve in this process, it would be to help the injured players in their rehabilitation process so that they can get better and make a comeback. Because from my own experience I can tell that this period for any player (who is out of contract) is very difficult.”
Finally, the Pune man extended his heartiest thanks to the loyal Orange Army for turning out in huge numbers. “Glad to have supporters like them. Win, loss or draw, they are always beside us. Hope they keep doing what they have done till now.”