August 26, 2009 12:44:24 am
His numbers are comparable to Bhaichung Bhutias,and even better,but Sri Lankas Etire Bandanage Channa likes keeping a low profile. The veteran of 102 internationals with 49 goals concedes his opponents were not half as good as Bhutias and that teams like Bhutan and Pakistan have been his most frequent targets. But what transpires from the conversation is the strikers desire to play for an Indian club.
I think India have had the best set up for football among the SAARC countries over the last decade and this is one place I would love to play in. The players are kept better and paid better and we cant think of those facilities back home. We used to play at the Galle national stadium and now its available exclusively for cricket. I had to leave Sri Lanka and fly to Maldives to keep playing, Channa says.
The Indian taste had come too early in his career to cherish and it lasted for just a while. Indian football and its association with current Sri Lanka coach and former Mohun Bagan player Sampat Pereira inspired Channa to cross the Palk Strait as a 16-year-old. But he had to make an unhappy return.
I stayed at Dempo Sports Club for three months during 1993-94,but couldnt understand what exactly was expected from me. Then I realised my standard didnt match the levels here. I felt lost among the Brazilians and the Nigerians. I returned home disappointedly, the Maziya striker says.
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But with his current form and exposure to international football in the sub-continent,he wishes to stage a comeback. He thinks even age will not be a deterrent.
Maybe now Im ready to play in India. I know the requirements and the situation here having played against them over the last 12 years. Im not comparing India to Europe but the I-League is the best league in the sub-continent. My agent in Maldives is trying to get me a contract with some Indian club. I havent got any offer but am hoping to play here. I think I have still three-four years football left in me, the 31-year-old says.
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