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Lankan striker eyes I-League

His numbers are comparable to Bhaichung Bhutia’s,and even better,but Sri Lanka’s Etire Bandanage Channa likes keeping a low profile.

Written by Saikat Sarkar | New Delhi |
August 26, 2009 12:44:24 am

His numbers are comparable to Bhaichung Bhutia’s,and even better,but Sri Lanka’s 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 Bhutia’s and that teams like Bhutan and Pakistan have been his most frequent targets. But what transpires from the conversation is the striker’s 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 can’t think of those facilities back home. We used to play at the Galle national stadium and now it’s 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 couldn’t understand what exactly was expected from me. Then I realised my standard didn’t 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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India calling
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 I’m ready to play in India. I know the requirements and the situation here having played against them over the last 12 years. I’m 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 haven’t 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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