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ISL has helped me develop my skills and become a better player: Sahil Tavora

SAHIL TAVORA put on a scintillating second half display to thwart FC Goa’s old foes Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. Both teams were finalists in the previous edition of the Hero Indian Super League but failed to make it to the knockout rounds in 2016. Playing their final game against each other, the teams put on a 9 goal thriller with the young midfielder scoring a stunning, late goal to seal FC Goa’s first win over the Super Machas at home. 

Tavora was part of the Goa-India squad at the Lusofonia games in 2014 that won the tournament. Coming into this team as one of the younger players in the squad, the midfielder put on a performance that was beyond his years and helped the team to victory. 

Following is the chat with the Goan youngster. 

Q: What was going through your mind when you saw that long ball from Sanjay coming your way?

Sahil Tavora: It was the dying minutes of the game. My first thought was to control it well and then cut inside. I wasn’t looking for a pass at all. I was just thinking of keeping it in control and shooting. I didn’t see Rafael’s run into the box. After I controlled it, I cut in and the only thing left to do was shoot. I had nothing to lose, FC Goa had nothing to lose, so I thought why not go for a shot. 

Q: The team was trailing at half-time and you were brought on at the start of the second half. What was the talk like in the dressing room at the interval?

Sahil: Zico wanted to correct a few things defensively. He felt we were a bit too open in the first period, so he wanted to counter that issue. He told us to play for the fans who came in large numbers despite our results. He asked us to show more hunger, passion and desire and to put in more effort than the Chennai team. We wanted to do something good for the fans. 

Q: Was there an element of revenge, considering last years’ final match at this very venue?

Sahil: I think there must have been with some of the guys who were there last year. Of course I wasn’t but yes some of the guys who were part of the squad last year wanted to win the match.

Q: What were your expectations at the start of the ISL? Have you fulfilled them? What has this tournament taught you?

Sahil: Personally, I learned a lot even though we had a bad season as a team. Individually, I learned a lot. There will be times in my career when whatever team I am a part of doesn’t do well and with this year, I have learned to deal with those situations. It’s all good when the team is winning and on top of the table but it becomes really challenging when the team isn’t doing too well. There is a lot of pressure from people, fans and other. The training methods used here are vastly different. It’s been great learning from these highly experienced coaches. You can see the improvement in guys like Romeo and Mandar who have been here for three years now. So therefore, as an individual, I learned a lot from this tournament. 

Q: What was the experience like working with Zico and playing with Lucio?

Sahil: It’s been an enriching experience playing for Zico. He has a lot of confidence in me and he showed that by substituting me on at half-time. He told me to do what I usually do. He never puts pressure on an individual regardless of the situation and calmly explains his plans and asks us to execute it. It allows us to express ourselves.

Q: Do you think the ISL is beneficial to Indian football, especially to the younger Indians?

Sahil: I think it does help us. There may be a few technical aspects of the league which need to be fine-tuned, say for example the duration of the league and a few rules perhaps. But as a platform, I don’t think anyone can doubt its benefits to up and coming footballers in the country. Yes it does get criticism but it is one of the big leagues in the world. It gets viewership from all over the world. So yes, it is a massive boost for Indian football.

Q: Who was your biggest influence in this team? Who do you think you’ve learned the most from?

Sahil: There have been a lot of people actually. I can’t pick one individual player but considering I am a midfielder, I have picked up a lot from Joffre. Even Trindade, though he’s young is a very good player and he’s also helped me develop my game. Even Lucio, who’s a great friend off the field has helped me mentally and guided me.

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