In the middle of nowhere

His coach Bernard Oparanozie considers him the “best midfielder in the country” at the moment. But for someone who first drew notice eight years ago at the age of 16 — he was the Player of the Tournament in the 2001 Subroto Cup — the big break still remains a dream for Manish Maithani.

Written by Saikat Sarkar | New Delhi | Published:March 3, 2009 3:21 am

Plagued by injuries,midfielder Manish Maithani is still struggling for his big break

His coach Bernard Oparanozie considers him the “best midfielder in the country” at the moment. But for someone who first drew notice eight years ago at the age of 16 — he was the Player of the Tournament in the 2001 Subroto Cup — the big break still remains a dream for Manish Maithani.

Now 23 and playing for Indian Nationals,Maithani was named the best midfielder in the recently concluded DSA Super League,but as always,the reward was accompanied by avoidable problems,both on and off the field.

“He’s young and emotional. When he returned after an ankle surgery last year,people were apprehensive about his form and fitness. He was desperate to play and prove his worth but was treated very badly by the club officials. But I knew his potential and backed him all through. He finally played for Indian Nationals,but without any contract this year,” says Bernard,the Indian Nationals’ coach.

Manish’s apprehensions,though,had more to do with his mind than his ankle. “When I started after the injury,I was scared of taking shots as I felt I would injure my ankle again. I was out of the field for more than a year and didn’t want to go back to the sidelines. But Bernard sir kept me motivated. He told me not to hesitate and that things will fall in place,” admits Maithani,who has donned India colours at the under-16,19 and 21 levels.

Maithani is now on loan to Amity United for the I-League Division II qualifiers and Bernard feels the long-awaited stepping stone into the big league is just round the corner.

“His greatest quality as a midfielder is his pace,both on and off the ball. Air India coach Bimal Ghosh and a few Mohun Bagan officials were also interested in him then,and I wanted to recommend him to Bob Houghton for the national camp too,but his injury became a hurdle. Now he’s got another opportunity to make it big,” says Bernard.

The biggest roadblock has been Maithani’s being restricted to clubs in and around Delhi. He has also played for Haryana in the Santosh Trophy once (2006). “No big clubs keep track of things in Delhi,especially with the I-League going on. So the upcoming second division I-League matches will be something he’s been waiting for. The big clubs always keep an eye on them,” Bernard adds.

While his ward is confused between playing for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal,Bernard feels he has to do better than his two-goal tally in the DSA league this year if he has to succeed. “He does everything perfectly but just messes up with the ball when it comes to scoring,” explains Bernard.

The 35-yard scorcher against defending champions New Delhi Heroes is the goal Manish calls his best. “It was all the more satisfying as the team won,” he signs off,no doubt dreaming of being in the big league some day.

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