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Defending his post

Published : Nov 5, 2016, 11:24 pm IST
Updated : Nov 5, 2016, 11:24 pm IST

He is the wall that attackers have to contend with in the ISL when up against F.C. Goa. While the team’s recent season has been injury ridden, he is ready to step in when gaffer Zico wants him to.

Gregory Arnolin, FC Goa Player
 Gregory Arnolin, FC Goa Player

He is the wall that attackers have to contend with in the ISL when up against F.C. Goa. While the team’s recent season has been injury ridden, he is ready to step in when gaffer Zico wants him to.

Grégory Arnolin, the Martinique International footballer says of F.C. Goa’s start, “The injuries aren’t good but we have to keep working and looking forward. It’s our responsibility to play well and be there when ever the coach wants us. Every day, we learn something new. We have a lot of games to play, and have 24 players so there are many good options for substitution,” says the man who is a product of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) Academy and played in PSG’s B team.

The Livry-Gargan, France born player has lived the life of a footballer, with most of his career in Portuguese football, including three seasons at the famous Madeira club Marítimo. Towering and resolute, the centre back is known for his La Liga career where he played for the Spanish side Sporting Gijon, netting thrice in his 93 appearances. “I stared playing and teams like F.C. Barcelona were there, every small experience playing in La Liga was wonderful. It was indeed the best experience playing against the best players in the world like Ronaldo, Messi and David Villa.” When a chance to play for F.C. Goa came along, it was a “good opportunity.”

While the highs of his career include a goal against Valencia F.C., he also represented Martinique at the international level for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1–0 win against Canada. For a footballer to still find chances at 35 is unique, and thanks to leagues like ISL, the career span of the remarkably short shelf life of a footballer has increased. At F.C. Goa, Arnolin is pretty much a name associated with the Goa team. He has scored thrice in the ISL, with an affinity for set pieces in earlier seasons.

“I stay in Portugal, and have played there for long time. Now let’s see what the future holds,” he adds.

He and his partner of 10 years have a son, Jordan, eight and daughter Aliyah, four. “India has been a very good experience. The stadiums here are always full, especially in Goa, and people are very close to players too. My family was with me last year and will come back in November. When they are in the stadium, it’s very special, as I feel they are with me. My wife watches my games. It’s important as they give me the power and confidence,” says Grégory. His son Jordan is already playing football for a lesser-known team in Lisbon, and his little girl also likes the game. “Maybe she will begin when I go back,” smiles the footballer. “I am very fond of Lilian Thuram and I try to emulate Thuram,” says Grégory, who has a strict regime to stay relevant in a game that demands youth. “I have a gym at home, and I play hard and practice. I have some good friends who helped me in my career and guided me. I don’t drink and smoke,” he adds.

He recalls how his friends deterred him from football when he was young saying professional football had too much competition but Grégory was resolute: “I followed my dream, my family told me you can do it, follow your dream.” About Indian football he is optimistic. “Looking at the level of football in the past three years at FC Goa, one can see the difference. It has gone up. Players like Mandar are taking it forward. I think Indian football cannot stop, you have to keep working quickly so we can see good Indian players internationally,” says the defender, who thinks that Sergio Ramos (Barcelona) is a good player, but he reserves the top spot for both Messi and Ronaldo.

He is loving the Goan way of life. “Now, I know Goa. I try to learn about the cities, and give time to football. Football as a career is very short so I try to enjoy the moment. I enjoy the market in Panjim and the beach. Football is great but it’s not everything. I like understanding the culture of another place,” he says. While he likes watching movies, and going to restaurants with friends, he adds, “I go to the beach, I like going to the malls, shopping. It’s important to divert one’s attention and change one’s mind to enjoy a wholesome life,” says a guy who was in part responsible for F.C. Goa’s semi-finalist stand in the Hero ISL 2014. He hopes to play his best to keep that ball out of the F.C. Goa goal, and of course clinch silverware. A few set pieces included.