By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: Away fans cheering for a goal for the away side is quite unheard of in Indian Football. But Indian Arrows striker Vikram Partap Singh mentions that East Bengal fans cheering for his goal against Quess East Bengal was “very special indeed.” The morning after, Vikram in a freewheeling interview spoke at length about the strategy behind the victory against Quess EastBengal, the difference between the two batches of Indian Arrows, Shanmugam Venkatesh bringing in more value addition to the squad, respect for East Bengal fans, and much more. EXCERPTS:

You helped Indian Arrows win against Quess East Bengal. The morning after, has it sunk in?

Yes, it has, no it hasn’t (smiles). It was a very significant match for us. An away victory is always special, and after all — this one came against Quess East Bengal. But I would like to clarify that it wasn’t me alone who helped Indian Arrows win against them. It was a concerted team effort — right from the staff to the bench, and all who took the field.

What kind of preparation went behind the scenes?

We were coming close but some silly mistakes were robbing us of points. Hence, we were determined to make this match count. The attitude was different, as we were on the cusp of desperation – we ought to snatch it and make it memorable for us. The confidence which this victory has brought to our squad is unmistakable.

What stood out in the victory?

The manner the East Bengal fans applauded our goal was a very special feeling indeed. Right from childhood, we have heard about the fanatics in Kolkata — the manner they stand by their club. But they spontaneously clapped for our goal. That made the fans stood out – their knowledge and appreciation for good football. It didn’t end there, they even cheered for us after the match. It was a unique feeling. Our respect for fans in Bengal has grown immensely.

You were part of Indian Arrows even last season. What is special in this squad?

Our squad last season was more experienced as it consisted of boys who were all part of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017. The talent on display was immense. There were match winners in every department.

But this time the mentality is entirely different. The unity in the squad stands out this season. There’s backing for each other, and we know we need to earn it. It’s much more team-oriented, both on and off the field.

What value addition has coach Shanmugam Venkatesh brought to the squad?

He has been able to create a strong bond amongst ourselves. Venky-Sir has been focussing on a different playing style, based on possessional football. Under his coaching there needs to support from each other. He is a strict disciplinarian and stresses on all sticking together. Both him and Mahesh-Sir have played it at the highest level, and it helps when you coach. We are hence, trying to grasp as much we can from their experience.