The former Kerala Blasters and Gokulam Kerala forward also had interesting things to say about the league systems in India.
It was a feisty affair back in 2015 in a Indian Super League game between Kerala Blasters and ATK in Kochi. The away side were leading by a goal and to pile up the misery the Blasters also lost their forward Sanchez Watt in the first half due to injury. Antonio German was sent in to replace Watt and the action that followed changed his career in India.
The young English forward created innumerable chances, but found the net for the first time through a spot-kick. He followed it up with another splendid equalizer late in the game, announcing himself to the Indian audience. German then went on to become a fan-favourite for the Blasters and later also had a short stint with Gokulam Kerala in the I-League.
Khel Now caught up with the attacker for a candid chat about his career, the journey till now and how the leagues all over the world differ from those in India.
“I always knew I was going to pursue a football career when I started playing properly at 10 years old and fell in love with the game,” German began, explaining his decision to pursue football professionally. “My childhood football idol was Thierry Henry.”
The 27-year-old forward came up through the ranks At Queens Park Rangers, speaking of which, he becomes very nostalgic remembering his youth days. German also spoke highly of current Cardiff City head coach Neil Warnock, who had a great influence on his game during their time together at QPR.
“QPR was amazing, it was the first time that I got a look into professional football at a top level and it really kick-started my career. Warnock was a top manager. He always gave me a chance. With him, if you trained well you play, regardless of your age and I think that was key for me at getting a chance,” the striker recollected.
The former Blasters forward furthermore explained his thoughts on moving to India for the first time when he joined the ISL outfit in 2015.
“It was a no-brainer for me to join Kerala. The fan base was amazing and also the chance of playing abroad. The manager at the time (Terry Phelan) was also my manager in England. So, it was an easy decision for me to take a chance and go abroad.”
German had an immediate impact for the Blasters in his first season after a short injury layoff. He was the top scorer for the team, but failed to inspire them, as they finished last in the standings. Speaking of which the forward was proud of his contribution, but claimed it as a bittersweet experience because of the club’s downfall.
“Yes, my first season in India was bittersweet because I missed the first seven games due to an injury. But then, I came back and still managed to finish top goalscorer (of Kerla Blasters), which was good. But, at the same time, the team wasn’t doing so well so it was a tough one to take.”
The frontman also commented on his former coach Steve Coppell and the experience of featuring in the final against ATK in 2016, where the Blasters lost in a penalty shootout.
“Playing under Steve Coppell was a good experience for me because although I didn’t score as much under him, he was a top manager and a nice person too. We reached the final and lost on penalties which was tough. I feel we deserved to win that game. But, it was an amazing experience regardless of everything.”
German (left) joined I-League outfit Gokulam Kerala in 2018
Furthermore, German spoke about his experience of playing for I-League outfit Gokulam Kerala. “The reason I chose Gokulam was because it was in Kerala and it was a new test for me playing in the I-League. So, I wanted to give it a chance,” added the Grenada international.
When given the choice between I-League and ISL, having played both, German cleared his stance as he said, “I think the I-League is good, but the ISL is much better. From the stadiums to everything I prefer the ISL.”
German also holds the point of view that the two leagues should be merged in the future. “For me, there should be one top league in India and then they should do with a relegation, promotion setup. Every other league in the world is like that. So, I think it’s the way forward.”
“The ISL and Malaysia Super League are basically similar on every level. Those two lead for me,” German added when he was asked to compare the two leagues, having played in both.
Speaking about his return to India, he left it as open as possible as he sounded very optimistic. “I would definitely come back to India. The fans had always shown me love and I’m so grateful to them.”
The former Kerala Blasters fan-favourite ended with a short and sweet message for his fans in India. “I just want to say thank you to all my fans and I’m so grateful to them for the support they have shown.”