MUMBAI CITY FC has been relishing being among the top three teams in the league this season. A lot of new additions to the team have kept the balance between scoring and providing cover as well. One such addition is Spanish midfielder Hernan Santana.
He began playing in the Spanish Tercera Division in the 2010-11. Moving up the tier he has gained valuable experience while making to the La Liga as well.
Santana has played under current boss Sergio Lobera, in his time at Spain. He answered a few questions about his current team in the Indian Super League, Mumbai City FC.
Q. Tell us something about you and how you started playing football.
A. I remember I started playing football in school with my friends. I was maybe five or six years old when I started playing. That is when I first touched a football. And then I remember playing for my school team as well when I was eight or nine years old.
Q. After you started playing in your school, do you remember the first club you played for?
A. The first club I played for as a kid is a club close to my house - CD San Juan - a team from my city, Las Palmas. In fact, my first ever coach was my grandfather. I remember this moment of my life everyday because it's important to remember the beginning, when I started playing this sport.
Q. Who was your idol growing up?
A. When I was a young boy, I watched a lot of football on the TV. Real Madrid was my favorite club and still is my team. My father and my grandfather were both Real Madrid fans as well. I remember watching Ivan Zamorano , Michael Laudrup, Clarence Seedorf, Fernando Redondo and a lot of Real Madrid players from those days. But if I have to choose one player that I have always looked up to, for me it is Zinedine Zidane. What a classy player. He makes the most difficult things look so easy and for me, that is the most important thing.
Q. You played for 15 years, a long career. What is your proudest moment?
A. My proudest moment in my career has to be when we achieved promotion to La Liga from the Segunda Division with UD Las Palmas.
Q. How has your experience of the bio bubble been so far?
A. The initial experience was always going to be difficult. When I arrived here, we were inside the room, quarantined for 15 days. Now it's okay. We have our team lounge that we can go to everyday. The team has gelled wonderfully, we all get along so well with each other. Now, we are a family. And given the situation across the world, the bio bubble is the best possible option. Also living in the bubble, your mind is only thinking about one thing and that is football. And for players, for me, this is the best possible thing.
Q. You have played under Lobera at UDLP. What is the difference between the Lobera of Las Palmas and the Lobera of now?
A. I think that the main difference is his experience. When he arrived at Las Palmas in 2012, he was a young coach. It was his first experience as a head coach in the Segunda as well. But now he is a coach with great experience, his style is like the one they played at Barcelona under Guardiola. If you arrive at a team with his style of play, the players tend to enjoy with the ball. He wants to keep it calm, keep the ball and wants his players to enjoy the game. I prefer to keep the ball, press, play with intensity and the most important thing for me is to enjoy on the pitch too.
Q. You've played in the La Liga, one of the best leagues in the world. What is the word about the ISL in Spain?
A. During the last few years, the number of Spanish players heading to the ISL has been on the rise. For example, in the first or the second year, I hadn't heard a lot about the ISL. But now, in Spain, when you speak with other players, with friends or on the TV, you hear a little but only good things about the ISL. The level and the quality of the ISL is also increasing every year. There are a lot of players from Spain that come to India now to play in the ISL.
Q. In 2013, you had a knee injury. How did you come back from it?
A. I remember I was out for almost a year. When I had the injury, the doctors first told me that I will be out for about 2-3 months. But the injury kept going on and the recovery took a lot of time. I didn't feel comfortable even after almost five months or so. It was a hard year for me. But this is football. If you ask any player, this is a part of the game. Sometimes injuries are for 2-3 weeks or even months, that is normal. But the mentality is the most important. When you are injured, you always want to recover fast, always want to come back quickly. But sometimes, it's better to recover slowly, step by step. In my case, my mind is always in the future, not in the past. I never thought that it hass been 3-4 months and I haven't played or trained. I always kept looking at how much time I have before I can recover well and come back to the pitch. It's important to have a positive attitude, in football and in life.
Q. You have spent so many years playing at different levels of football, including the highest level. What was the emotion and the feeling like when you achieved the promotion to the La Liga with UD Las Palmas?
A. When I look back at the past, I feel proud. When I was young, I never thought that I would be playing at such a high level and doing what I have and still am doing. When I was in my first couple of seasons at Las Palmas, my mind was always in the present. I was enjoying what I was doing. Now I am 30, not 20. Now when I am in my room or when I am watching TV, sometimes it just hits me that just five years ago, I played in the La Liga. I look at the pictures of me playing against the likes of Messi and Cristiano. I also had the privilege of scoring my first La Liga goal at the Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid, a team that I have supported since I was a child just like my father and my grandfather. I still support Real Madrid. I remember my other goals, but this goal for me is a special memory. It is very emotional for me and I am very proud of the career I have had. But I want to keep going on. I didn't play much last season, and now I want to be back to my best both physically and mentally. I am now here in Mumbai City. I want to stay here, be an important player here and help the club win their first trophy of their history.
Q. With Mumbai City now, there are high expectations. What is your target?
A. Maybe now with the media and the fans, the expectations from us are very high. But our expectation and our focus is only on the next game and on 3 points. When we finish that game, the focus is then on the game after that. If we want to win the league, this is the only way we can do it to be on the top at the end of the season.