Hyderabad FC midfielder, Sahil Tavora sat down for an exclusive with us and brought forth the positive energy of his team to the interview as they enjoy an unbeaten run in the 2022-2023 season of the Indian Super League.
On last year’s final
The interview began with us reminiscing about Hyderabad FC’s performance in the finals of the previous season, especially Tavora’s goal which equalized the scores in a critical moment allowing them to defeat Kerala Blasters FC and clinch their maiden trophy.
“It is a special goal, an unforgettable moment. Had I scored in any other match I would have been very happy but scoring in the final, in Goa, in a stadium I have fond memories of, and in the match that led to our first ISL trophy made it all the more special and a night I would never forget.”
Elaborating further, Sahil said that his contribution to the match was supposed to be routine. It was a substitution like any other. They were hoping for an equalizer but the aim was to not lose their focus and panic. He humbly added,
“The coach did not put me on the field to get a goal, but it was nice to have left that impact on the match”.
On his journey of becoming a footballer
Being born and brought up in Goa, the passion for football was something Sahil could not ignore despite his love for cricket in his early childhood. He confesses that he wished to be a cricketer. However, a particularly exciting season of the Euro Cup took him by storm as the football frenzy surrounding it swept him away.
“It was perhaps the 2004 Euro. Everyone was watching it and supporting Portugal due to our connection and I was dragged into the hype. I stopped playing cricket almost overnight.”
He started attending training camps and joined a football academy based in Goa and continued it along with playing at his school. At the age of 16-17, he made his professional debut with SESA Football Academy in the Goa Professional League then joined Dempo SC as his first major football club.
“I could not have asked for more supportive parents. I remember telling them when I was around ten years old that I wanted to play football and they supported me. Of course, I had to make sure to keep my grades up, or else I could not play football. It was good motivation.“, he said smiling.
On Hyderabad FC
After Sahil transferred to Hyderabad FC in 2019, the Nizams got off to a rocky start in the ISL.
“I was here since the beginning and in the first year, the team wasn’t doing well and personally I did not get much opportunity to play either. It was a forgettable year for all of us. But after that things started to change. It could be seen from Manolo Marquez’s arrival, the structural changes that took place and the players they signed. They had a clear goal of what they wanted to achieve and where they wanted to progress.”
The next season Hyderabad FC narrowly missed the top 4 position but a glimpse of their eventual greatness could be seen.
“Hyderabad is different from other teams because it has a family feel to it. We are all friends and have fun and food together. We built on this and I believe this helped us to achieve what we have achieved. I believe Manolo is a demanding coach. Of course, there are times to have fun but when we are supposed to do our best and give our all he doesn’t stop to remind us of that. He keeps us on our toes and motivates us to give our best to continue to play.”
On his experience in Portugal
Sahil spent a year in Portugal as part of the club GDSC Alvarenga before returning to India and joining Hyderabad FC.
” It was a very good but hard experience to play there. It’s much different and more competitive than football in India. Football there is like cricket here. Perhaps their passion for football is greater than ours for cricket. Children play football as soon as they are able to walk. Their grassroots teams are much developed which gives a level of professionalism much earlier than we do in India.”
“I played a full season there and it was a good experience. I learned a lot from the players and the coaches and even though our results as a team were not great, the experiences are something I still carry.”
On Head Coach Manolo Marquez
Head Coach of Hyderabad FC, Manuel “Manolo” Marquez, single-handedly changed the course for the team and made them the champions they are today. He spoke about what sets him apart from other coaches and makes him unique.
“Manolo is an incredible man-manager. He is approachable and can be approached both on and off the pitch and has good relations with the members of the team and is friendly. He is demanding, as I said before, so you have to give your best and work hard as a team, and we take responsibility when we are not giving our best. These qualities have helped us achieve what we have.”
“Many players have improved from playing under him. He makes us play to our strengths. If someone is fast and a dribbler, he tells him to do that; if someone is good at passing, do that. He keeps things simple. Playing to our qualities is an instruction he drills into us and has helped a lot of players, including myself, to identify what we are good at and improve on it. If each player in a team does this, then the team will be successful. It is why many of us are happy and playing our best.”
Sahil spoke of his targets this season and the goals he has set for himself.
“My target is to keep pushing forward from last year. Last season I played every match barring a few where I was injured and when I had COVID-19. My objective is similar to last year – to help the team whenever I am called upon. I want to be starting games as well, but I’ll be patient and wait for when the coach tells me to do so. Until then I’ll support the team whenever I am called upon.”
Message for the fans
“We are happy to finally play in front of them. We missed them in the last 2 years being in a bubble in Goa. This season we have played a handful of matches in our home stadium Gachibowli and we already love it. The fans come in numbers and shout their support for us. We have had three wins and clean sheets before them and we wish to continue to give them something to cheer about.”
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