Interview of McDowell Mohun Bagan midfielder Bijendra Rai2-Aug, 2012
Born on June 8, 1992, Bijendra Rai is a new recruit of McDowell Mohun Bagan who has joined from Pailan Arrows. Though he started his career as a striker, later on he shifted to the midfield and has mostly played as a side half. He has also represented the U-16 Indian team. He will be wearing the Jersey No. 12 this season.
We had a chat with him during the preseason camp in Durgapur.
MMB: How has the McDowell Mohun Bagan experience been so far?
Bijendra: I am extremely happy to be able to play in a big club like McDowell Mohun Bagan so early in my career. I will have to work hard and grab this opportunity. It was my dream to play for a big club. I feel really proud of myself. I think this is the biggest achievement so far in my career.
MMB: Do you feel any additional pressure because you are now in a big team?
Bijendra: No, not at all. I am getting a lot of help from other players, especially the seniors. I really enjoyed the preseason camp in Durgapur under our coach Santosh Kashyap. This is the first time I have been to a preseason camp for any club and I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 weeks in Durgapur.
I have the experience of playing in Shillong, where the stadium is usually packed during football matches. Last year, I played a number of matches at the Salt Lake Stadium, against teams like McDowell Mohun Bagan, so I have played in front of a packed stadium. I feel good to playing in front of huge crowds who are cheering for the team.
MMB: Did you have offer from any other club this year?
Bijendra: I had offers from Prayag United and Salgaocar.
MMB: Why did you choose McDowell Mohun Bagan?
Bijendra: Because it is a big club and it was always my dream to play for a big club, so when I got the offer, I didn't have to think twice to take my decision.
MMB: Say something about your early days as a footballer.
Bijendra: I was born in Jorthang, South Sikkim. My father and elder brother were footballers. My father used to play football locally but my brother played for a club in Darjeeling and right now is doing service in the police.
I joined Gangtok State Sports Academy in 2006 and stayed there till 2009. The tag line of the Academy was "Search for more Baichung." I would like to take the name of few coaches who had helped me a lot while in the Academy. They are Hongunorden Lepcha, Suresh Mukhia, and Suren Chhetri.
While in the Academy, I got the chance to play for the Sikkim U-16 team. In 2007, Coach Collin Toal gave me a chance for the 1st time in the U-16 Indian team, when we went to play in Saudi Arabia for the AFC qualifying Round. Later on, we went for exposure trips to Germany and England.
In the Gangtok Academy, I used to play as a striker, but in the Indian team, I played for the first time as a right winger. Manandeep Singh and Malswamfela played as the 2 strikers.
I scored my first goal for U-16 Indian team against Sri Lanka. I scored the goal within 20 seconds. I placed the ball inside goal from Lalrindika's cross.
Later, I also got a chance in the U-19 Indian team for an exposure trip to Malaysia and for a tournament in Dubai, but I missed the tour due to injury at the last moment.
MMB: Which was your first club?
Bijendra: In 2010, I went to Shillong and joined Nang-Kiew-Rat where I played as a striker in the local league.
In the next season, I joined Royal Wahingdoh where I played for 4 months. I played in the 2nd Division I league. We reached the 2nd phase but could not qualify for the 1st Division I league.
I scored 5 goals in that tournament. My best match was against Ar-Hima FC. In that match, though I scored 2 goals, we lost the 3-2. We trounced Southern Samity 6-1, where I scored 1 goal.
From Royal Wahingdoh, I joined Pailan Arrows.
MMB: Share with us your experience of playing the I-League for the 1st time last year.
Bijendra: It was a great experience. We tried our best with young players and without any foreigners in our team. I played both on the right and left wings and also as a striker.
I scored 1 goal against Sporting Clube de Goa. I scored that goal from about 30 yards out.
MMB: Which was your best match last season?
Bijendra: The match against McDowell Mohun Bagan which we lost 3-1. We played good football in the 1st half and took an early lead but in the 2nd half Odafa Okolie scored a hattrick.
MMB: Are you a corner specialist?
Bijendra: When I was playing for the U-16 Indian team, I used to take all the corner kicks. Last year in Pailan Arrows, I took a lot of direct free kicks but was unlucky not to score any goals from those.
MMB: Which is your favourite position?
Bijendra: It all depends on the coach and the team formation that he selects. Wherever he asks me to play, I will try to give my best.
MMB: Which is the best goal of your career?
Bijendra: The goal that I scored in the last season against Sporting Clube de Goa.
MMB: Which are your favourite football teams?
Bijendra: Portugal, Real Madrid and Manchester City.
MMB: Who are your favourite footballers?
Bijendra: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
MMB: Whos is your favourite Indian players?
Bijendra: Baichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, and Rahim Nabi.
MMB: Have you ever been adjudged Man of the Match?
Bijendra: Twice while playing in Shillong.
MMB: Best of luck for the season Bijendra.
Bijendra: Thank you.
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