Kochi: Mark Sifneos, who ended Kerala Blasters’ goal drought in the fourth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) with a clinical finish in the match against Mumbai City FC last Sunday, said it was a special feeling to have scored the team’s first goal in the league.
“It was an indescribable feeling. Playing in front of a full-capacity crowd was mesmerizing, something which I had never experienced before,” said the 21-year-old Dutch player of Greek descent, who used to play for Dutch second division club RKC Waalwijk.
According to him, it was an amazing experience to have shifted from the 7,508-capacity Mandemakers Stadion, the home ground of Waalwijk, where matches are played mostly in a subdued atmosphere, to the deafening drum beats and the carnival-like atmosphere in Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
“When I entered the stadium for the first time to warm up ahead of the inaugural match, I was awestruck by the electrifying atmosphere. The stadium was filled to the brim with a sea of yellow. A day I’ll never forget,” the youngster said during a chat with Manorama.
Excerpts from the interview:
How did you land in India?
Blasters head coach Rene Meulensteen was instrumental in bringing me here. Though I didn’t have much idea of football in India, I had heard of ISL. Former Delhi Dynamos player Serginho Greene was my teammate at RKC Waalwijk. He told me that it was a league which featured great players like Florent Malouda and John Riise. After joining the ISL, I realized that it is much bigger than I had thought.
What are the pluses of the ISL?
It is an absolutely professional setup. Preparations and organization are great. Beautiful stadiums and huge crowds add to the ISL’s charm. I have just begun my career. I’m looking forward to accomplish more in the game. It is a great opportunity for me to learn from veteran players like Berbatov and Brown.
How do you rate Kerala Blasters as a team?
It is a team with excellent players and great crowd support. The performance so far should not be a yardstick to determine the team’s quality. We are getting better with each game and it is time that we start winning. My job is to help the team’s cause by scoring goals. I’m confident that we would make it to the last four.
Will we get to see Berbatov and Sifneos partnering upfront?
I’m waiting for that opportunity. I hope it will happen soon. Watching Berba’s preparations ahead of each match is a great learning experience for me.