Interview: Khelemba Meitei14-Jul, 2012
New recruit, Khelemba Meitei, has joined McDowell Mohun Bagan from Salgaocar Sports Club. Born on March 2, 1988, he plays in stopper position and had a couple of very good seasons in Salgaocar where he mainly played along with Luciano Sabrosa in central defence. He will be wearing Jersey No. 5 this year.
MMB: Welcome to McDowell Mohun Bagan Khelemba.
Khelemba: Thanks a lot.
MMB: How are you enjoying the practice session in Mohun Bagan?
Khelemba: I am really enjoying the training session under our Chief Coach Santosh Kashyap. He is a very good Coach. I am looking forward to a great year with McDowell Mohun Bagan.
MMB: Last year, did you play the 2 matches against McDowell Mohun Bagan?
Khelemba: I played the away match in Kolkata which ended in a goalless draw but was not in the team in the home match in Goa.
MMB: Have you seen so many players in practice session before?
Khelemba: (laughing) Not really.
MMB: When did you start playing professional football? Was there any footballer in your family?
Khelemba: I am the first professional footballer in my family, though few of my brothers are volleyball players.
I was born in Imphal, Manipur. I was playing football for my school, Lamtai High School. I played for SSC Sekta which is a 1st Division Club in Manipur. From there, I joined Sagaoband United, a club in Imphal. For these clubs, I played in the Manipur League.
The first time I got a chance to play outside Manipur was in 2004 when I joined Green Valley Club in Guwahati. That year itself, Assam State Electricity Board football team took me in lien and I played in the qualifying round of 2nd Division I-League.
In 2005, I was called by Churchill Brothers, which was my first I-League club, for trial.
MMB: Have you played in stopper position throughout your career?
Khelemba: Yes, mostly I have played in stopper position, though in Sagaoband United, I played few matches as attacking midfielder also.
MMB: Before joining McDowell Mohun Bagan, which other I-League clubs did you represent?
Khelemba: After playing 2 seasons in Churchill Brothers, I joined Viva Kerala in the year 2007. The next year I joined East Bengal where I stayed for 1 year. I played for Air India in 2009 before joining Salgacoar in 2010 where I stayed for 2 years.
MMB: Have you ever scored any goal?
Khelemba: (laughing) I have scored very few goals. While in East Bengal, I scored a goal against Mohammedan Sporting. It resulted from a corner, I pushed the ball inside goal.
While playing in Churchill Brothers, I scored a goal against Dempo Sports Club. In the very next match against Sporting Clube de Goa, I was adjudged Man of the Match.
MMB: Do you find any difference in atmosphere of football in Kolkata and Goa?
Khelemba: Football is very popular both in Goa and Kolkata. Definitely, more crowd comes to see the matches in Kolkata. While in East Bengal, I did not play any derby match against McDowell Mohun Bagan, so I really don't have much experience of playing in front of a big crowd, though I have played few matches in local league at the East Bengal ground. I have played against Mohammedan Sporting at the Salt Lake Stadium.
I think playing in front of a huge crowd gives a moral boost to the players. This is the advantage of playing in Kolkata where players get so much support from the fans.
MMB: Are you aware of the pressure of playing in a big club like McDowell Mohun Bagan?
Khelemba: See, I will give my best. I know that if we win the match, everybody will praise us but in case of negative result, we will be criticized. This happens everywhere. I will keep myself focused and give my best for McDowell Mohun Bagan.
MMB: Did you ever get a chance to represent the Indian National Team?
Khelemba: Yes, in 2011, after Salgaocar became I-League champion, I got a call from the Indian National Camp for a World Cup qualifier match, but I did not have a passport, so I lost the opportunity to play for India.
MMB: Have you set any target for yourself this year?
Khelemba: I will be practicing seriously and after that it depends on Coach who will decide the team formation. If I get chance to play, I will give my best for McDowell Mohun Bagan. As a defender, my target is not to allow opponents to score goals.
MMB: Who is your favourite coach till the last season?
Khelemba: Bimal Ghosh and Karim Bencharifa.
MMB: Who is your favourite partner in central defence?
Khelemba: Luciano Sabrosa.
MMB: Which opponent striker has caused you most problem over the years?
Khelemba: Odafa Okolie. Last year, Manandeep Singh of Air India also played good football against us.
MMB: Who is your favourite International defender?
Khelemba: Puyol of Spain.
MMB: Best of luck for the season Khelemba.
Khelemba: Thank you.
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