The Indian Super League season is heading for a great finish and FC Goa is in terrific form with 10 victories sitting on the 2nd spot in the league. The team plays the next match at the Gaurs fortress hosting Kerala Blasters FC. Lenny Rodrigues, one of Goa's most experienced midfielders is looking forward to an exciting game.
GT caught up with the midfielder ahead of the crunch game against Kerala Blasters.
GT: You are having a fantastic season, you’ve already bagged three Hero of the Match awards and one of them was against the next opponent; Kerala Blasters in Kochi. You've been the unsung Hero for FC Goa and you're playing one of the best seasons of your career. What goes on every time you step on the field?
Lenny: Whenever I enter the field, I try and give my 100%. I always keep myself mentally strong. Whenever I play, I just want to be the best player on the field. Every team is different and we have plans for every team depending on the situation. We are always loyal to our ideas. Our mentors tell us to just stay loyal to our ideas and everything else will fall in place.
GT: We are almost near the end of the league stage, 5 Games to go - 3 home games and 2 away. What is the message given in the dugout by coach Lobera and how's the preparation going?
Lenny: Every match, before going to the stadium, coach conducts a meeting with us and he always tells us to keep improving, be fit, just play well and play our natural game. If we play well we get three points and if we fail to play well, you'll lose all the points. Every time we focus only on our game.
GT: The top 4-5 teams are all separated by one or two points. It's getting to an exciting finish in the season. You scored the injury-time equaliser in Kochi. What was that feeling like and what can we expect from Lenny this time around?
Lenny: I just want to give my best, the way I did on the previous occasions too. I would like to score more goals in the upcoming matches, for the team and the fans. The match versus Kerala will be difficult because they have a very strong team. It is our home match so we will try and take full advantage of it and try and steal all 3 points from it.
GT: You complete 10 km for almost every match? What's your secret for being so fit?
Lenny: Every time I step on the field, I just want to be the best. I just want to do more hard work and progress more. It's not only about on the field, off the field as well I try and train harder and harder every day to become a good player. Everyone knows I'm good but I want to keep working hard until I am at the top.
GT: You're one of the senior most players in the squad. What do you tell the young development team players that are looking to break into the first team?
Lenny: I tell them, if you want to become a good player, then you got to keep yourself fit and eat good healthy food. It's always about hard work. Now 3-4 players from the development team are here and are good. They're here because of their hard work so I tell them to keep it going. They should just put a little more effort, may be 100-120% effort to reach to the 1st team. It's just about hard work and nothing else.
GT: You have been exceptional in the midfield. There’s a match between India and Qatar on March 26. Do you think the selection committee has noticed you?
Lenny: I'm not sure about that. Yes, I'm quite sad I'm not in the national team. Every season I play and give my best. I see the lineup of the Indian squad, and every time my name isn’t there I feel a bit sad. But then, I try to not lose faith and try to keep going the way I always do. I've played for the national team in the past. I played for 3 years. Now I think I got a good opportunity to play again and to show my skills and hard work.
GT: Last season FC Goa lost in the finals. Will the fans finally get what they are craving for that is the ISL title this season around?
Lenny: I really hope so. We trained really hard. The team is good this season and we know how our teammates play. So, we'll give our best and try to win this time. Let's see and hope for the best.
GT: Playing besides international players such as Coro, Edu, Carlos and others. How does this help you as a player and how does this benefit the team?
Lenny: Whenever the foreign players play besides us, they help us. They have very good quality and the Indian players learn from them too. So, every time we play with them, it's like a confidence booster and it feels good to play alongside them. At the end of the day we play as a team.
GT: The FC Goa fans have been fantastic this year too, any message you want to give to the fans?
Lenny: It's always a great atmosphere when they come to support and cheer for us in the stadium. The team gets pumped up when they show up and our fans are our twelfth man for us. I just request them to come in large numbers to support the home team whether we win or lose because your support keeps us (the team) alive. Without the fans, we cannot do anything. We need their support.