18 Mar Champions of India
“The Boys in Blue, we’ll always be. Forever Blue. We are the BSB.”
Just back from a historic night at Bengaluru, here’s how we think our Chennaiyin FC players fared. The season that was from a Fan’s perspective!
He was somebody we retained and if there was someone in the team, we’d have hardly trusted since preseason, it would have been Karanjit Singh. What a way to respond to the faith restored in him by Management. Hardly put a foot wrong this year and how he’s improved by miles all comes down to Tony Warner taking over as Goalkeeper Coach. Karanjit was undoubtedly the Best Indian GK in the ISL 2017-18 but obviously, you give the Award to the guy shamelessly sneaked in via the back door because of more clean sheets and saves for the camera. Takes nothing away from Paaji. What a resurgence! We’ve hardly seen Pawan Kumar in Chennaiyin colors over the years but credit to him, when the occasion arose that he shall play, he stepped up and displayed some great composure.
When we signed him, we were all thinking “what can this man offer us at 35, which a younger Indian can’t offer – or rather learn by playing the trade” – But the Basque Hero from Brighton has just won us all over. Last night, he cried. Last night, he was a winner. Last night, he was the winner after having waited 36 years. Some stories can never be scripted to such perfection. Inigo Calderon has become a Legend at the club already. Constantly marauding down the right flank, whipping in crosses, contributing with goals, showing the way even with goals, last-ditch tackles and tireless madcap running – Inigo, the Sports Psychologist – has won us over.
Mailson Alves came to India two years ago, for three months of football, some money, and valuable experience with Chennaiyin in 2015. Booooom! He went on to win the league with the team that year under Marco and that was it. The team grew on him, the league didn’t let him go and back in Chennaiyin colors this season as a much-improved defender, Mailson Alves has stepped up and put himself out there as one of the best CBs in the Super League. “We’ve got Alves. Mailson Alves. I just don’t think you understand…” THOSE TWO GOALS IN THE FINAL. 💙
Henrique Sereno is a special player and we think we’re indebted to the club for bringing a hero we never thought we’d have. A happy-go-lucky Portuguese man who teases his friends for a livelihood and plays football on the side, he’s just gone through a season as Captain. He had remarked that he’d never led a side before as the first choice captain and we’re proud that the man who put his body on the line numerous times this season, has been rewarded by being to lift the ISL Trophy in his very season as Captain of a club.
Credit to Marco Materazzi for having the balls to throw 17-year-old Jerry into the Starting XI after losing Dhana to injury last year and it’s been two full years where the timid lad from the North East has gone from strength to strength. A full international with Team India, Jerry Lalrinzuala is one of the best returns we have got from the investment in youth made by the club in the last few years. “Ole, ole ole ole. Jerry, Jerry!”
This chant from the B Stand Blues has grown with the team, the crowd and management alike as the season progressed that it’s almost the most liked one amongst other few: “He’s here. He’s there. He’s every-fucking-where! Bikramjitttttt. Bikramjitttttt!” Three consecutive finals for the man: Lost to Chennaiyin with Goa in 2015. Won with ATK in 2016. Now a winner and a crowd puller in 2017-18 with just his unbelievable energy and grit. He’s not been used for more than 60-70 mins every game which can be attributed to his previous misfortune with injuries but he’s been superb throughout.
“… Dhanpal Ganesh, He’s one of our own.” A chant that goes around for the local boy at the Marina Arena after all fan groups in Chennai have now begun singing our tunes – this man has gone from being unwanted to being ‘local quota’ to a permanent stay in the team and has ended the season on a high as Gregory’s Midfield General and now goes into the Indian NT camp full of confidence. Ganesh na, as we know him, has been immense throughout the season. He’s not a favorite with rival fans but that’s when you know a player has earned the hate. He’s a frikkin’ defensive midfielder who plays with his heart on the sleeve and if need be, he’ll let you know whom you’re going playing against with a tackle or two. No qualms about him going hard at players. That’s how he plays and that’s how he wins and improves. Truly, one of our own. 💙
Have you seen magic on the field? He’s not your random magician on the streets trying to trick you for money, but he’s our big, Brazilian magician who destroys many a football career with what he does on the pitch. Raphael Augusto, the man I’d love to see in Chennaiyin for years to come. What a player. A goal in the finals accentuates what he brings to the table. Any other player would have hit it hard into the top corner but Rafa is all about class and precision placement, simply wrapped his foot around the ball and let it slip into the bottom far corner beyond the reach of giant yet no so great keeper, Gurpreet. (a Cough, India’s#1)
The man with a fucked up ankle. Francis Fernandes comes to a football hub in Goa but had his career never really take off due to a nagging ankle issue and when Chennaiyin entrusted in picking him, we thought he was going to be a backup player. Honestly, we weren’t seeing what the management was. Last night at a full time, the BSB went crazy shouting, “Super. Super Francis, super!” A chant that we don’t do as much as we’d the other chants but it was heartwarming to see the staff and players acknowledge the chant and with that the efforts taken by this man, Francis. For us personally, he’s something that we hardly expected and it was indeed our surprise package of the season.
If Ronald Koeman has been watching the Indian Super League, he’d be including Gregory Nelson in his squad selection right away. Nelson hit the right notes from Day 1, the second half of our home loss to FC Goa. Our Flying Dutchman has been arguably the best ‘left winger’ in the league and has exceeded all our expectations this season. See you again, Greg. Let’s do this jig together.
Gregory Nelson, tralalalalaa.
Gregory Nelson, tralalalalaa!
When Jeje is on fire, opposition defenses are naturally terrified. It’s a myth that the only measure for strikers is by goals or assists and let’s not blame the Indian journalists for this, they’re all just starting out with football. They’ll be there in time. Jeje Lalpekhlua is India’s BEST striker. Repeat, Jeje is the best striker in India. Jeje doesn’t play out wide. Jeje plays central and only central. Jeje does what he does every game. Jeje runs for the team, and Jeje does so much upfront that is hardly appreciated in media or fans alike because you don’t see what he does off the ball, out of where your TV Broadcaster can show on your screen. He’s taken so much criticism this season but in our opinion, this season is where Jeje has progressed hugely as a striker. He’s still come out as our top scorer amongst all the chaos. His hold up play has improved multifold and he’s survived a season of leading the line on his own as the main man. Jeje is now ready for tougher battles. “We love you, Jeje. We do. We love you, Jeje. We do. We love you, Jeje. We do. Oh, Jeje we love you!”
“His first name is Rene, Rene, Rene!
His second name is Mihelic, Mihelic, Mihelic!
He scored against the Blasters!
The Blasters, the Blasters, the Blasters!
And that’s why we like him.”
Chennai in had missed an expert in delivering quality from set pieces last season. Our last best was, of course, Elano but the Rene sure made it tick Chennaiyin from dead-ball situations. Rene is somebody we should hold onto, as he can offer more than what he has. There’s more to come from this man, we reckon.
Gavilan comes from Sunny Spain. Jaime oozes class and much like his countryman, Juan Mata, Jaime controls the game and plays it beautifully as though he’s playing a tune on a piano. He’s always got that extra second in every move and he always sees an extra pass somewhere. These are the players you’d want to see day in, day out at your club – Gracias Gavi, you were brilliant.
Dhana, Dhana Dhana, Dhana Dhana, Dhana Dhanachandra.
Thapa, Than Thapa, Thapa Thapa, Thapa Anirudh Thapa!
Surely this has become everybody’s sudden favorite chant this season after the improvised moved to go with it but it truly has been a season that has shown the fact that Chennaiyin probably has one of the strongest bench strength. Anirudh Thapa has had 650+ mins this season and featured in almost the games. All the games and minutes purely on merit. “It’s Thapa you know. Hard to believe it’s not Augusto!” Crucial goals, so many exquisite passes (his key strength) and many a dribble, Thapa is going to be the face of a very successful future for Indian football.
He had tears yesterday. He had no part to play but 35-year-old Mohd Rafi was in tears at the Kanteerava. Last, of course, he went to the finals with KBFC (how?) and lost to ATK (obviously!) – TWO consecutive Finals lost would be so depressing for Rafi-ikka but that was not to be. At Chennaiyin, you’re a winner Rafi. The perfect Plan B striker to John Gregory, he gave the coach what he wanted. Direct and physical, Mohd Rafi played a key role this season.
Jude! Jude! Jude! Remember the phrase: “Bolt out of the Blue” – Jude is probably Usain Bolt in Chennaiyin Blue. He runs like his life depends on it and cares not for who the opposition is. Not much opportunity to showcase his talent but surely he’s a top player to be on our rolls any day.
Dhana had very little minutes this season, battling injury setbacks, and of course Jerry keeping his place at LB but in what little time was given, he showed why he’s a crucial member of our team.
Keenan Almeida, Thoi Singh, Germanpreet, and Cardozo have all been called into action from time to time and they have all given a great account of themselves whenever needed. It’s been a fairytale season and well deserved for a group of footballers that consider every as a family. It’s been a fairytale season for the fans who’ve proven by all means that there’s the football lamp to burn in Chennai.
To the rest of India, here’s our message.
We’re the Champions and we’re in Asia, are you?
Shout all you want, we’ve got the cup, Have you?