Matej Poplatnik might not be the most loved footballer to have played for Kerala Blasters, but his love for the club and the country cannot be doubted. IFTWC was involved in a talk with the player, and he opened up and expressed himself thoroughly. Some of the excerpts are presented below.
When Matej was asked how difficult it was for him to settle in India, he revealed how he adapted like duck to water.
“It took me 10 days to settle in India. Indian players helped me a lot. We used to go to dinner together and enjoy together. Cyril Kali was one of my best friend in Kerala Blasters. Indian players are very kind. I was shy in the beginning. Lalruthara and Rakip are very funny. Lalruthatra used to be late in meetings. Sandesh is a very professional player and serious guy. I’m in touch with all players. Anas is the most humble i have seen. I am looking forward to meeting them soon.”
Kerala Blasters had loaned him to a Hungarian club last season, and Matej was visibly unhappy about the move. He said, “My manager received this offer from the Hungarian club. The Hungarian club really wanted me but I wanted to stay at Kerala Blasters which could not happen unfortunately. I had good training in Hungary because the coach was a striker during his time. But he didn’t speak English and that was a problem.”
It is not the first time a player enjoyed India. The country has managed to surprise many players, and most of them have been mesmerized with India.
“I was happy in Kerala Blasters. Not only football, but life in India was also good. I enjoyed every day. I felt like home in India even after its distance from my home. I felt like a star when I arrived in India. After matches they took photos and interviews and this is important for players as it gives confidence.”
Kerala Blasters lost against Girona FC and Melbourne City FC in the preseason tournament. Matej explains the reasons behind those loses. “We had only 14 days to prepare and results showed that. But we gave our 100 percent. We needed atleast one month and the team was also new. We had to be together so that we could do better.”
That season, Kerala Blasters won against ATK in the first match and Matej Poplatnik scored in that match. He had words of praise for the atmosphere created by the fans.
“We had a lot of chances against ATK. Before that match, we were scared because of the pressure. We had problems in our head and things went wrong. It was an unbelievable experience. It was like we won the championship after the game against ATK.”
Matej was asked about ISL and Hungarian League. He made some positive comments about ISL and Indian players.
“Lot of people think that Indian league is funny and bad. But the Indian league is very good. For example Sunil, Sandesh, Sahal, Anas, Ashique and many young players can easily play in Europe. They should do mental training. They don’t know how good they are, They should not think they can’t play in Europe. Sandesh Jhingan’s passion for Football is amazing. He is a fighter and can easily play in Europe.”
Matej then went on to explain his mentality. He said, “My Mentality is..I didn’t do that good in India. I accept that and I can do better than this. I am realistic. I want to do better. I want to finish career in India. If you decide you can do better then you work hard and do better.”
Matej played under David James and Nelo Vingada. He had interesting opinions about both of them and their styles. “David James is good guy. He gave me the opportunity to play in India. But I like Nelo Vingada because of his style. My style is passing style and David James played English style of football. I played better under Nelo. I scored more goals in less matches. He spoke to me and gave me the confidence. Under Nelo, we trained less than under David James. We were focused more on tactics.”
“Udanta, Pritam Kotal, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Ashique and Sunil Chhetri are some of the best Indian players outside Kerala Blasters. Sunil Chhetri is known around the world. He is the second active highest scorer in International football after Ronaldo. I’m really thankful that he shows the way to me and other Indian players. Hope he plays 5 more years.” He said when he was asked about Indian players outside Kerala Blasters.
He was asked about Kibu Vicuna and the upcoming season. It seems Matej is very much excited for Vicuña. “I am all the time watching lives and all the things happening around India. He’s really a good coach. He was coach of Mohun Bagan and they played very good. I saw short passes and attractive football. They play like Barcelona. I like that style of play, so I hope he’ll see me in the squad.”
Matej Poplatnik had a message for Manjappada at the end.
“Stay positive and keep supporting Kerala Blasters like you do and hopefully let’s dream together to win this cup and wait till we hopefully reunite. Help people in Kerala and India by giving them food and water and other things during this situation. Hope everything will be fine soon.”