Ex-World Cupper Zokora impressed by hardworking Indian players

Mumbai, Sep 23 (IANS) Former Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zokora, who has joined FC Pune City for the second edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), praised Indian footballers for training hard and being focused on the task in hand ahead of the season starting on October 3.

The 34-year-old defensive midfielder — the most capped player for Ivory Coast — represented the African nation for a span of 14 years, with a record 123 appearances. He has also featured at the FIFA World Cup in 2006 and 2010.

“I am happy with the way the Indian players are getting prepared for the tournament. They are training hard and I am impressed to see them so focused and have the zeal to perform,” Zokora told IANS in a telephonic interview from Pune.

“I was particularly impressed with Lenny (Rodrigues). Even Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Jackichand Singh are so quick with the ball at their feet. The best part is they have learnt to adapt to different situations,” he said.

The footballer played for seven different clubs around the globe, namely English Premier League (EPL) side Tottenham Hotspur where he made 88 appearances followed by Spanish club Sevilla where he played 49 games.

His current side FC Pune City headed abroad to Turkey for their pre-season training and speaking on that sojourn, Zokora believes that the tour was much needed ahead of the ISL.

“It was fantastic. The pre-season in Turkey was really amazing. We played some good games there, the facilities and other aspects were also good. All the members of the squad trained well and it was a much needed one before the start of the season. Now we are better prepared and ready for the second season of the ISL,” he said.

The ISL club finished sixth in the inaugural season and the former Spurs defensive midfielder said under experienced coach David Platt, the team will aim to put up a much better performance this time.

“FC Pune City is now a growing football team. As far as I have seen, it is really good team which will go a long way ahead in the league. Last year wasn’t that fruitful for the team, but I am hopeful this season we will bring change in the charts and bring smile in the faces of the fans,” he said.

“There a couple of good foreign players and we have a experienced coach David Platt. He is working hard in training the team and making the team as fit and best prepared as possible,” Zokora, who had reportedly turned down offers from EPL heavyweights Manchester United and Chelsea to play for Spurs said.

Asked about his experience of playing alongside veteran Didier Drogba and what the former Chelsea striker meant to his country, Zokora said, “Drogba is one of the best players in the world, he is worshiped in Ivory Coast. He scored so many goals for the country and clubs. He is much focused in whatever he does and he has proved over and over again what kind of a player he is. It was great playing alongside him.”

(Aritra Chowdhury can be contacted at aritra.c@ians.in)

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