This is an exclusive interview of Nongdamba Naorem, conducted through a telephonic conversation. Scroll down to read the interview.
Nongdamba Naorem, one of the rising stars of Indian Football and one who has played for clubs and in tournaments many players of his age merely dream of, will be donning the yellow and blue outfit of Kerala Blasters FC for this season of ISL 2020-21.
Naorem recently found some time from his hustling schedule to talk with IFTWC to share his insights on some of the questions that he was presented with.
Naorem has played for Mohun Bagan on loan from Kerala Blasters last season and gained a lot of experience from there for a player of age 19 whereas many youngsters of his age find it difficult to get game-time. Naorem said,
“I feel that sending me out on a loan to Mohun Bagan turned out to be really good for me. I can’t speak for what the other clubs do or have in mind but what Kerala Blasters did with me can be said as one of the biggest turning points of my life because if I had stayed here and not received any game-time, it would not have been good for me at all. So, going to the I-League, getting game-time and acquiring a great deal of experience is a good thing that Kerala Blasters have done for me.
“And I must say, if any youngster in ISL is deprived of playing time then they should definitely go to I-League and play there for a while because what youngsters need is consistent game-time and opportunities to in play every minute possible.”
Naorem will be playing under Vicuña consecutively for the 2nd time now after having plied his trade for Mohun Bagan in the previous season and winning the championship with them. Naorem feels the competition inside the club is tough. On that note, Naorem said,
“I think it is a (good) opportunity for me to play under him (Kibu) again in this season. He is the reason why I’m confident and believe in myself today. As a whole, we had put up a great performance last season, in I-League, and we even won the championship. Possibly, I will give my 100 percent this season, like I did in the last season. And Kibu Vicuña has played a great deal of role in me becoming the player that I am today.
“I can’t really predict who will be there in the starting XI during the ISL. But, as for me, I’m working hard to fight for my position. In this process, I’m helping my teammates and my fellow teammates are also helping me. We are like a family. So, now in the training I’m working really hard and I’m giving my 100% percent. I’m feeling really good about the training. I don’t know who will or who will not play for the team, but I’m doing my best to make sure that I’ll get play for the team.
Continuing with this, on the note of how preseason is proceeding and the fact that Kibu has taken up a club which has not finished well in the last few seasons, Naorem said,
“I think, in the training, we are doing well. The team is doing really well. We, Indian players, started training even before the foreign players came. And now the foreigners are trying to adapt. I think the training only started a couple of weeks ago and we are training really well. The coach is doing really great to train the team really well, I can’t predict what will the results be in the ISL but, as of now, he (Kibu) is doing everything he could do for the team.”
Although it has only been few weeks, Naorem feels privileged in rubbing his shoulders with the likes of Vicente Gómez, Gary Hooper and other such players who have played in the top teams in the world and against top players.
“Yes, I’m playing with the likes of Vicente Gómez, Gary Hooper and all and they have played in top teams and against top players. I think Bakary Koné is out of quarantine, I had met with him but Facundo Pereyra and Jordan Murray are still in quarantine. So, yes, it is a great experience for me because I get to learn a lot of things from them. The only thing I can do now is enjoy playing with them and learn as much as possible from all of them. I’m really looking forward to play with them in the official matches also and it feels really good to have them around and learn from them.”
The Covid pandemic has drastically affected the whole of footballing consortium and the ISL players are in a bio-bubble. Naorem said,
“I think, there is no normal life (or normal conditions) now like we had in the previous seasons. But it is not like this only for us. Every team has to undergo these same restrictions and conditions because of the (Covid) pandemic. Staying in the hotel (all the time) was boring initially, but we have to follow these restrictions and protocols that are set for us. The training (routine) is almost the same and I think the only difference is that we are not allowed to go outside the hotel. I think, it was hard initially but we’re adapted to it now and there’s nothing to worry about it.”
Naorem pointed out that the preseason training is going really well for the team and that they’re all having a tough and healthy competition inside the squad itself. Naorem was one of the main and consistent picks of Kibu Vicuña in the previous season at Mohun Bagan, and the player will look forward to keep up with the same.
“Like I said, we all have competitions here. I can’t really always stay in my comfort zone. We need to have a change of mindset accordingly. The coach has given me a lot of chances in the last season, and if I expect the same in this season and stay in that mindset, that won’t really help me. Yes, the coach might give me opportunities, but for me, in my conscience, this is a new club with a new manager and I’ll have to give my 100 percent, and that mindset will give me more motivation to work harder.”
For the players of his age, Nongdamba Naorem is doing really well. He is young, growing and has great potential as mentioned by the gaffer Kibu Vicuña himself on several occasions. And it is of no doubt that these sort of players should look for opportunities abroad to grow even more and to excel well in their career. On this note, Naorem said,
“I don’t know, but my agent is looking at options overseas. He encourages me to go but I know it is a very hard and tough process. Maybe, next year I might try but nothing is still confirmed yet.”
Naorem is overwhelmed and motivated with the fans contacting him through social media and here is what Naorem has to tell for the Manjappada (Yellow Army),
“I think it will be a big miss to not have them in the gallery because Kerala Blasters have one of the best fan base in Asia. I have never played for Kerala Blasters in their home while fans were there but this time I’ll be playing for them and the fans have been contacting me and supporting me through the means of social media and it is motivating me a lot. So, it’s a really good thing that they are supporting us in all ways possible even if they cannot be there to watch the match in the stadium. And what I’d like to tell them is that ‘We are doing our 100% in the camp, we are playing the game not just for us but also for you and I just want to tell “Thank You” to all of you for supporting us.'”
With this much said, Nongdamba Naorem signed off from the interview, and the fans can expect an astonishing display of football from him in this season ISL 2020-21.