Khassa Camara – The new name in the lips of the NorthEast United FC fans. The Mauritania International has already made an impact in the midfield under the Gerard Nus for NorthEast United FC. Debuting in the Indian soil donning the white of NorthEast United, Khassa has already made 8 appearances for NorthEast United FC this season.
Recently IFTWC got an opportunity to interview Khassa and here’s what the midfielder has to say about his current experience in India and ISL, led by a young coach,
“Until now everything is perfect. He (Gerard Nus) works a lot in the team and he talks with everybody, even with players who had played fewer minutes. So, everything is perfectly good.”
When asked to Khassa about Gerard Nus’s statement in which the coach said that he’s not here to win but to create some impact in the league, but currently NEUFC is in a good position. So, how vital do you think Gerard Nus is behind NEUFC’s unprecedented success?
“His start with the team and the players was very good. I remember the first call I got before I came to India. Everything the coach has told me happened this year until now so far. He analyzes really well, the team, the players that we have, and all the teams we are facing every week. That’s why I think, we’re in a good position now. This year I’m not surprised about this result because the coach has analyzed the players, their quality and weakness and that’s the main reason for where we are today.”
You are playing under a new coach and under new conditions. Are you fully adapted to the tactics of the coach?
“In the beginning, we didn’t have enough time to prepare. Some of us joined the camp very late and that too two weeks before the start of the season. So we did a lot of tactics based training every day and to be honest we adapted very fast to his tactics. That’s why we win some games and we were unbeaten for the first six games.”
Do you think the lack of preseason affected your performance?
“Not really. But in the beginning, we had only a limited time in hand. We played only one friendly match and I had only two and a half week to prepare myself for the first match of the season. In the first 2-3 games, after the first 60 minutes I was too tired. But we picked up the pace and after 6-7 games we’re in perfect shape and form.”
Your team is filled with young talents like Apuia, Ninthoi, Chaara and many more. What is your impression on these youngsters? Who has impressed you so far?
“I would say Gurmeet – The young goalkeeper. Because in the beginning, he was not playing and finally he got his chance and he took it. We know it’s not easy for goalkeepers as they play a different role and they know in the beginning about who will play and who will not. But he took his chance and he really impressed me with his confidence throughout all the games.
NorthEast United FC had won only two matches last season, and with the current scenes, the team is looking much better than that of the previous seasons. What is the mood inside the camp?
“The mood is very good because we are inside a bubble and we’re all together 24×7 and it’s more like when we’re with family. We built a kind of family mentality and we’re all together. That’s the main reason why we built this kind of never give up mentality on the pitch and aggressiveness to fight until the end. This quarantine has helped us a lot, and so the mood currently is – Family Mood.”
Khassa, you’re playing in India for the first time. Can you tell us the experience playing with Indian players under Indian conditions in relation to the weather and climate?
“To be honest at the beginning when I came to the training it was hard for me. The weather was very hot and humid but after a few weeks, my body adapted to the weather. About playing in India, it was best for me. I think I made the best choice because I’m pleased with the professionalism in all the games and the organization is very good. It’s very attractive and I’m really happy to play in India and Northeast United FC.”
Have you felt any difference while playing in India in relation to your country (France)?
“It’s difficult to compare because you can’t compare a league that had started just six years ago, to a league which has started more than 100 years ago. It’s a new franchise so, I think it (ISL) will improve much more in the coming years and will attract more and more players not only the old players.”
You’re 28 years old and most of the foreigners in the league are on the other side of the 30s. How long you wish to play in ISL?
“To be honest, I don’t know. In football everything is possible but like I said earlier until now I’m happy to play in India and NorthEast United FC. So yes, why not to continue for next year and maybe more years. I never know, but currently, I’m very happy about playing in India.“
How is life inside a bio-bubble? We often hear about indoor activities, what keeps you out of boredom these days?
“As I told earlier, we’re 24×7 all together and we’re like a family. I have some friends that are much close. We do some things together, we play a lot of Uno with my fellow foreigner players and we would talk about everything to pass the time.“
Who is your best friend at the club and with whom do you mostly hang out with?
“I don’t have only one best friend, I’m much closer with all the foreign players in our team. I’m always with Kwesi as you all know and Benji – The Big Ben (Benjamin Lambot), Dylan and Machado. Maybe its because we’re foreigners and we’re not from India so it’s much more easier to talk. But I think I maintain a good relationship with the whole team not only just foreign players.“
What’s the story behind the name “Tank” and how does that come up?
“I think that was one social media page, I don’t remember the name, they tagged me with this name “Tank” in Instagram and day by day some others also started tagging me with this name. So eventually I need to take up this name. That’s the actual story behind the name “Tank”. It’s a good nickname and I really like it.“
Having played seven matches in the league, which team was the toughest?
“I would not say one team, there are two team- Mumbai City FC & FC Goa. Mumbai City FC was a hard team to play against because even with 10 players they gave us a lot of struggle and also FC Goa was playing well as they displayed very good football in the small space with short passes. So these two are the best and toughest team we faced.”
You have played in different countries, Is there anything special here in India?
“To be honest, Nothing! Because we just play football so I didn’t see any difference. We train like other countries every day, we have meetings like in all the other countries. We go to the games and prepare for games like in all the other countries. So above this, there is no difference. It’s exactly the same for professionals. It’s just when you play as a professional footballer, its exactly the same in all professional football clubs across the countries. You just have to prepare yourself as good as possible to perform well in the game. So that’s it !”
What was your first impression when you got an offer from NorthEast United FC?
“To be honest, I didn’t know much about Indian football. So I tried to take information from players who have already played in India or in NorthEast United FC and I have the coach so I think I made a good decision. I was looking for a new experience. So by far, I’m a really happy person now without any regrets. I think I made the best decision of my career by coming to India and joining NorthEast United FC.”
What are your expectations and aims for this season?
“We are facing all the teams with an intent to win. We do our best to go to the game and get all three points. We’re taking game by game and one game at a time so we can be happy at the end of the season with hard work and a never give up mentality.”
To wind up, any few last words Khassa has to address to all the NorthEast United FC fans?
“Thanks to all the NorthEast United FC fans. I’m receiving a lot of messages from you. I try to answer almost every fans message. So I want to thank all of them and I can promise that I’ll play with all my might and abilities to reach your expectations by the end of this season.”