Mohammedan Sporting Club's Marcus Joseph with the 2021 Calcutta Football League Trophy. The team is currently 2nd in the I-League and with just 6 games left and 4 points from top Joseph says they can win the title. Image Credit: Supplied

Marcus Joseph is having a superb season for Mohammedan Sporting Club. Having netted 10 goals in last 8 games, he was awarded the I-League player of the month for March. The team is currently second in the table and just four points separate them from leaders Gokulam Kerala. And with just six games remaining, the 30-year-old attacker who recently represented Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Qualifiers, knows the title is there for the taking.

“We need to keep going and keep the pressure on Gokulam,” the striker tells Gulf News. “I feel I have performed really well so far this season. It’s going very well and team is playing good football, but it can be better well and we always have to try to improve. I want to keep scoring goals and creating chances for the team and the ultimate goal is to try to win the I-League.”

He got 25 goals in 30 matches for Gokulam before moving to Mohammedan Sporting and he says he is enjoying the different styles of play and football philosophies between the clubs and feels he can continue his scoring run, “I think I can score at least 20 goals this season in the I-League, but the players need to come together and to help me. It is a team game and we all need to be doing our part to help the team progress and achieve its targets. It’s a great privilege to play in this league and I want to say thanks to the club for having me here.”

First goal

From all of his goals so far the first one he got against Sudeva Delhi sticks out. “That one was the most important as it was first game of the season. We won and getting off to a good start was key in how we have continued this season. We are second in the table now and we have to keep the momentum going.”

He says he owes his terrific scoring run to the effort he is putting in to training on a daily basis, eating healthy - he loves steamed fish - and getting plenty of rest too. “It’s always important as a player to do extra work as it will always pay off in the games and so I train a lot on my own and then on the training ground I try to perfect things. The coaches at the club are really good too, they offer good advice and if I am making any mistakes in games they will come over and whisper something in my ear to help me improve.”

Joseph, whose career best was 38 goals in 34 games in the TT Pro League whilst playing for Point Fortin Civic FC, says his best moment in the I-League has been the way Mohammedan Sporting have come together. “The spirit in the squad is great and hopefully this will continue,” he says.

The Black and White Brigade won the Calcutta league after 40 years and Joseph reckons they can win the I-League this season. “We have a great chance of winning the title - the players are seeing the bigger picture now and with 6 games remaining of the season we all need to pull together and keep playing the way we are to be able to realize our dreams and make the fans happy. It may go down to the last game of the season – that will be exciting.”

There have been other consistent performers this season which have propelled the team up the table in particular Faisal Ali. Joseph says it is he who has impressed him the most. “He has great quality and lots of talent and enthusiasm for the game. But he is a young player and he needs to stop joking around in training, he needs to be more serious. I always challenge him to improve, if he makes 1 bad pass I make him do 20 pushups!”

Hot form... Joseph scored 10 goals in 8 games to win the I-League player of the month for March.

Joseph feels he can be role model for Ali and other young players trying to make their way into the game. “I worked with a lot of senior players in my career and they always gave me good advice and so it is my turn now to pass on the knowledge for the benefit of the team.”

Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and Brandon Fernandes are some players who developed their game outside India but when asked why they aren’t many playing in the major European leagues, Joseph believes he has the answer. “They have the talent that is for sure, they are very good players and have impressed me a lot but I think they lack strength maybe and belief in themselves. They lack confidence.”

Need to improve

Football in India is growing extremely fast but it still needs a lot of development. The dominance of cricket is massive and it is indeed the most popular sport in the country. But in recent years, football has witnessed its rise and is gaining popularity. “Things need to improve from the grass roots, for example some training grounds are not up to scratch, the pitch is too hard and players pick up injuries,” he says. “More need to be done to promote football in India too because the youngsters clearly love the game – some love it more than cricket – but the infrastructure needs to improve.”

He scored 5 goals for Trinidad and Tobago in a match the team won 15-0 against Anguilla in November 2019 and although they are not going to be at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, he has hopes of play in the finals in the future. “The team was ranked as high as 25th in 2001 – now we are currently 103rd. We need to come together from top to bottom, give players the motivation they need and I believe we can reach even higher than 25th.”