The Marina Machans’ latest recruit is Tajikistan’s highest-capped international…
Last season’s finalists Chennaiyin FC have had a busy transfer window in recent weeks, bringing in several new faces to be part of their overseas contingent.
Only Eli Sabia and Rafael Crivellaro have been retained among the foreign contingent from last year while five new faces have been roped in by the management. Fulfilling the mandatory Asian player quota is Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev who becomes the first-ever player from Tajikistan to take part in the Indian Super League (ISL).
A winger by trade, Fatkhuloev has a very interesting profile. The 30-year-old is considered a legend as far as Tajik football is concerned and is their highest-capped international. And his move to India has generated a lot of interest in a land which is besotted by the charms of Bollywood.
However, Fatkhuloev has had his brush with India in the past. In fact, he has scored twice against the Blue Tigers for Tajikistan. The first time was in a historic game for India back in 2008. Fatkhuloev scored the consolation in a 4-1 loss to the Blue Tigers in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup held at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. The win saw India earn a spot in the 2011 Asian Cup.
The next time he found the back of the net against India was in a winning cause, in a 3-0 friendly win at home in 2013.
“I have played a lot of times against the Indian national team and against clubs from India. In my opinion, the games were open and attacking,” he told Goal . “Twice I scored a goal against the Indian national team. I have very good and interesting memories of these games.”
It must be noted Fatkhuloev was an integral part of Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol for a long time, playing a key role in seven of the club’s nine Tajik League title wins. However, Bengaluru FC fans will remember him from their 2017 AFC Cup Inter-Zonal final against Istiklol. Fatkhuloev played in both legs as the Tajik side won 3-2 on aggregate.
Fatkhuloev has however played abroad before, with stints in Uzbekistan and Indonesia in the past. He reveals that he had another offer from Uzbekistan and one from Malaysia to deliberate before Chennaiyin FC made their move.
“Before interest from India, I had several offers from Uzbekistan and Malaysia. Then when the Chennaiyin management approached me, I was immediately interested. Chennaiyin is a big club in India.”
He also admitted that the charms of the ISL also made his decision easy.
“I believe that the Indian Super League is one of the famous leagues in Asia. Many stars of world football have played here and continue to do so. When I watched several games of clubs in India, it was exciting and very interesting to watch.”
Fatkhuloev also had a convincing conversation with head coach Csaba Laszlo whose vision for the club and the winger was clear enough for him to book his tickets to India.
“I was satisfied following our conversations and discussions, especially with the head coach. He talked to me about the goals and objectives of the club and clearly explained what he wants to see from me. For my part, I completely trust the coach’s opinion and accepted all the conditions, in terms of what he expects from me.”
Though primarily a winger, Fatkhuloev feels that he can play across the front three, something that Chennaiyin will look to utilise. Fatkhuloev is known for being a technical player with plenty of guile. The Tajik international acknowledges as much and is raring to make his mark in the ISL.
“Basically I am a winger but I can play very well in any position of attacking football. I want to show all my skills and talents (in India). Many people know about the technical ability I possess, especially in the opponent’s final third. I wish to showcase it and do the talking on the pitch,” he added.
Fatkhuloev, having served FC Istiklol for a long time, knows the value of staying long-term at a club. However, his primary aim at Chennaiyin is to showcase his ability on the field and then take stock.
“Every footballer dreams that his name will remain memorable for a long time in the history of the club. First of all, I want to show a high-quality game this season and then think about future plan.”