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ISL: Marcelinho Leite Pereira interview - Playing for 3 clubs, India's footballing culture, attacking philosophy

ISL: Marcelinho Leite Pereira interview - Playing for 3 clubs, Indias footballing culture, attacking philosophy

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 7 Nov 2020 7:30 AM GMT

When Marcelinho Leite Pereira first arrived in India to play for Delhi Dynamos in 2016, not many Indian football fans knew about the mercurial Brazilian’s exploits in his home country or across Europe and the UAE. They didn’t have to wait for long though, because in his very first season in the Indian Super League (ISL), the diminutive midfielder laid down a marker with 10 goals and 5 assists in just 15 appearances. He was roped in by FC Pune City the following season and in his two seasons for the now defunct side, he scored 14 goals and assisted 11, further establishing himself as a player of immense pedigree and big-match nous. Last season it was Hyderabad FC who got hold of him and after another impressive personal campaign but a disappointing one from the team’s perspective, the former Atletico B player signed up to represent Odisha FC during the recently concluded transfer window. Ahead of the new season, The Bridge caught up with the 33-year-old and picked his brain about his time in India and how he views the league and its growth over the years.

“My time here in India has been very enjoyable. I’ve played with three separate groups and all of those experiences were different from each other. Getting the Golden Boot in my first season with Delhi was special, then I got to play for a couple of years with a stable and organized FC Pune City before the Hyderabad adventure came calling, where it was a completely new beginning and a season full of new challenges,” he said when asked about the takeaways from each of those experiences. The Brazilian rates the ISL very highly and has seen a number of youngsters come through the ranks every season and establish themselves at their respective clubs. “The Indian players are getting better physically and tactically with each passing season and every year we see fresh faces who have an immediate impact, becoming important players for their sides,” he says, citing Ashique Kuruniyan and Sahal Abdul Samad as examples.

Marcelinho Pereira in his first Odisha FC training ahead of the new season (Source: Sevens Football/Twitter) Marcelinho Pereira in his first Odisha FC training ahead of the new season (Source: Sevens Football/Twitter)

Having played in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain, how different has the Indian experience been? “All of these places have a distinct culture, footballing and otherwise, and it’s the same in India. What I feel about India is that it is not very different to how Brazil is, the warmth and happiness in the people and the passion for the sport are very similar, as is the population,” he responds with a sly wink before adding, “Brazilian players who have played here before me all had wonderful things to say about the country, and I now understand why.”

Coming back to the upcoming season, we asked the midfielder how he sees himself fit into head coach Stuart Baxter’s plans at Odisha, to which he replied, “The gaffer is hugely experienced and he expresses his ideas with tranquillity and understands every aspect of the game extremely well. I’m highly motivated and see myself adapting to whatever the coach and the team’s demands are from me.” When told to have his pick amongst the young Indian players who have already impressed him in training, the experienced head named defender Gaurav Bora and midfielders Jerry Mawihmingthanga, Thoiba Singh and Vinit Rai before adding that although he had been surprised by their quality, he would reserve his final judgement after seeing them perform in actual matches. About his own role in showing them the ropes, he said that while some players collect and process information quickly, others need an example in front of them. “I don’t like to talk a lot or give advice, instead I try to show during practice the right move for them,” is how he put it.

His own attacking philosophy is quite simple. “I like to understand what’s happening around me first, and then attack the opposition with speed, forcing them to make mistakes. I always try to find my passing targets in a vertical game, and if someone blocks my passing channels, I can find my teammates in a good position to score,” expressed the midfielder. He is obviously looking forward to the next season, and knows that there will be disappointments along the way, what with Odisha FC still being a work in progress. However, in his own words, he always tries to be positive from inside and with a solid team as well as a meticulous coach to fall back on, this season might just see some more fireworks from the Brazilian’s left foot.

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