Loveday Enyinnaya is no stranger to India. The Nigerian defender has been in the country for nearly eight years in a career that has taken him from the coastal air of Kerala to the colder one that you find in Shillong. After four years in the hills, he returned to the salt and beaches, only this time in Goa. Finally, he went to Chandigarh where he won the league title with Minerva Punjab. His current endeavour, though, is something no one has done before – captaining Real Kashmir in the I-League.
IndianExpress.com caught up with him and he gave a picture of what it is like to be a top flight football player in Kashmir.
What was your reaction when you first got the offer to join the club?
I said ‘I’ll consider it’. I was basically a bit doubtful because this was a new club freshly promoted from the second division. Eventually, though, I said ‘yes’ to the offer.
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What made you say yes?
I had confidence (in the club). I also felt that it will be a different experience. Real Kashmir was a top team I felt when they were in the second division and that is why I accepted the offer.
What had you heard about Srinagar and Kashmir before you got the offer?
I had heard that there were political issues here. But honestly, when I got the offer I wasn’t thinking about that side of it, I was only thinking from a professional point of view. Now that I am here I realise that what I used to think about Kashmir from the outside is not the way it is over here.
How difficult was it to adjust to the weather?
I was in the North East for four-five years. Kashmir is a little bit colder. Breathing here is a little bit difficult. Sometimes your chest hurts because of cold especially when you are playing or running. But I have to get used to it and acclimatise to it. There are times when there is snow on the pitch and when you don’t feel like getting out because of the cold. This is the life of a professional, you can go to a hot place or a cold place. You get used to the heat you face in places like Kolkata. In the same way you get used to the cold here.
What do you have to say about the crowds that come here for every match?
Not too surprised by the crowds. This is the first time after all (that a team from Kashmir are playing in the I-League). They like football, and they know the game too. They are happy that they are getting to see it live. It is like when Shillong Lajong reached I-League for the first time. It was the same in Shillong. The crowd here is amazing, you know, they understand football. So we better use the advantage.