After the official announcement, Malayalee star defender Muhammed Uvais signed a contract with ISL side Jamshedpur FC upon his transfer from I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC. He opens up on various things from his life and professional career in an exclusive interview with IFTWC. Below are the transcripts from his interview.
How do you view your rise as a Malayali player, and getting a chance at a big club like Jamshedpur FC?
“I was thrilled when I first heard it. Before the change, I had received offers from various clubs, and among the top three or four clubs, I chose Jamshedpur FC. The truth is that I didn’t expect much, I really didn’t expect such an opportunity and this performance in the I-League itself. I plan to play with Gokulam in the senior team this year, get to know the I-League in the next few years, and move up if given the opportunity, but unexpectedly I was able to play quite well and got offers from various clubs.”
What was the offer to Jamshedpur FC like and what are your expectations from the new club, and also how did Gokulam react to this transfer?
“The main thing is playing time and I’m happy to be able to sign at a club where I’m sure I’ll get playing time from the offers I’ve had among players who go to big clubs and have to sit on the bench. The fact that I can play in different positions seems to have attracted them, although the contract doesn’t say that I will be given playing time at the moment, I am confident that I will get as much playing time as possible.
“Having players like Ricky at wing back gives me the energy to fight for opportunities. Narender Gahlot has left the club, so it remains to be seen who will be in the stopper position with him. Gokulam had a good attitude and when approached by the club ready to pay the transfer fee, he gave up.”
Can you take a look back at your days at Gokulam Kerala FC?
“I was there for a year and I think I played well with the senior team. I was playing in Kerala Premier League in KSEB, and from there Gokulam brought me to their platform, Praveen sir called me and invited me to the club. The days at Gokulam were very valuable in my career, I got to see all the stars I knew there and could play with them, so I was able to work out good coordination. Everyone in the team was equally very friendly and supportive. I was able to make a lot of great memories there and the days in Kolkata were really fun. Coach Anniese led the team well; He was not very friendly, he kept the seriousness of a professional coach, but he was one of us during the training sessions.
“I was able to play all the matches in the I-League, including the three matches in the AFC and over twenty matches this season. When it comes to performance, I am coming to the wing-back position after days, I used to play stopper back and struggled a bit to adapt to the change there but everything went well. He did his best in the team with three assists and a goal but still has a lot to improve as a player and is currently working on that. I am happy with the overall performance because I see it as a big thing to fight with the team’s victories. I League success is an example of that.”
Before becoming the I-League champion with Gokulam, Uwais was a thin boy with KSEB, and a lanky-bodied genius who saw anything as an opportunity! How was the growth from that Uwais? Who was there with you on this journey?
“My father is my hero and he has undoubtedly brought me to this point. My mother, my coaches, brothers, and friends have guided me through this journey. They are the ones who have protected me despite the criticisms and the general view of our country is that ‘nothing can be achieved by playing. I want that to change. All those who said to study and get good at that time are now surprised to see this new step. It is gratifying to see that all those who were despised before are now congratulating and saying good things. All the time I was away from home, this scorn and accusation went on, but Wappa and Umma never informed me of it.
“They didn’t let me go through difficulties and troubles, they stood up for me even when I was in need. My father did not lack anything. Wappa was overjoyed after winning the I-League title, but according to him, if I want to be recognized as a good player, I should play in the blue jersey of the Indian national team, and my current coach, Jali P Ibrahim, is of the same opinion. That is my goal now! Playing top-level football has to be accompanied by playing with the national team. There is the label of an ISL star and from there I am on a journey toward becoming an Indian international. And my loved ones above to stay with me. I like to take Sunil Chhetri’s discipline as an example in this regard, to be able to play at that level and carry the same diet and discipline. To be able to finish the game as if I had achieved as much as I could, that’s my dream like everyone else’s.”
Who is the current personal trainer and who are Uwais’ current teachers in this game?
“I would like to say that my Wappa and Coach Jali P Ibrahim are the reason for all my success currently. If I am what I am today, it is because of him, having trained international players like Amarjith, Sandesh Jhingan, and Anas Edathodika, it is a great thing that players like me have access to his services. He became my coach at the age of nineteen and from then on the reins of my personality training were firmly in his hands. From diet to the tactical aspects of the game, he is always with me, so I don’t have to ask anyone for help. Along with Wappa’s support, Jali Coach’s efforts have made me who I am. Currently, we are all training together in Goa, Amarjith, Christy Molly Davis, Akhil Praveen, and other Gokulam stars are doing well.”
How do you see the transition from the I-League level to a standard league like ISL with more coverage, and more infrastructure, in one leap? If you were to make a bucket list of wishes to accomplish, what would it contain?
“There is a desire to be able to play more and get more playing time. I’ve never really thought about pressure, and the truth is, I don’t generally worry about those things. The only goal is to play for the maximum amount of time. I want to play well and do whatever I can for the team.”
It is a fact that Uvais’s name was not much heard at the college and university level, why?
“I haven’t played much at that level, university, Santosh Trophy, district team, Kerala team and so on, Kerala Premier League, Second Division, I League, now ISL. It’s been a strange journey indeed. Therefore, I have fewer sentiments toward my country or Kerala when it comes to the game. I am generally less interested in playing away from home and normally a place at Kerala Blasters is always on everyone’s wish list, but it is the opposite for me. It goes without saying that if I stay close to the land, I will lose my focus and my attention will shift to many other things. I give importance to playing from abroad more than playing from home.
“Most of my clubs were outside, whether it was the Under-18 I-League, training at the Mohun Bagan Academy, or my time at Sudeva. After stints at FC Kerala and FC Thrissur, out again, at Ozone FC; Then at Bengaluru United. KSEB and Gokulam followed, and now Jamshedpur. In fact, when we’re here it’s just us and the football, nothing to distract us and change the focus, and that’s a lot! Now if I get a chance I would like to go abroad and play ball. You know it’s football and culture.”
How much of the current success is owed to the fans and what does this genius Uvais have to say to the fans?
“Just happy, don’t know what to say here. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, I will play well for you. All I want to say is that I want to be held together like everyone else. Thanks, everyone!”
Follow our website for the latest updates on Indian football.