The I-League has seen a number of foreign strikers lighting up the stadiums over the years and more recently, it was Pedro Manzi, who scripted his name alongside the 'Footballing Gods'.
The 32-year-old had mesmerised one and all in the 2018-19 season, netting 21 goals, as he led Chennai City FC to their maiden title. While that performance had earned him a stint at Japanese club Albirex Niigata, the Spard is once again back in the I-League - this time with Mohammedan SC.
"I had a strange season in Japan. We started the season, but the pandemic started and the season came to a halt. The season restarted in July and got completed in November," I-League's official website quoted Manzi as saying.
However, it was more than just the strange season that played a part in Manzi's return to the subcontinent. The Spard believes that it was the welcoming people of India that made him come back.
"It was strange because the people in Japan are maybe a bit less social, whereas, in India, people are so friendly. Overall, I had a very good experience there in Japan, but now I am back here, and ready to do well," he smiled.
"I am very happy to be back here. I had a great time when I was here the last time. I did not have a great start here at Mohammedan, but we need to keep working hard and win our remaining matches. It is very important that we stay in the top half of the table and try and win the league in the second phase," he continued.
While fans are not allowed in the stadiums in the I-League this season, due to the COVID-safety protocols, the Espanyol youth academy product has already started receiving a lot of love from the fans of both his current and his former club, which makes it all the more special due to the fact that Mohammedan will be playing Chennai City on Tuesday.
"Yes, a few fans of both Mohammedan and Chennai City have sent messages telling me they are very happy to see me in India again. This week, we are playing Chennai. I do not know how to describe this feeling. All I can say is it is a special game for me playing against my former team," stated Manzi.
"I feel extra motivated because it is my former team. I know their staff, and players. They have a few new names, but I believe I know most of the team when we played together. I think that is why I am extra motivated to play and score against them," he continued.
Having earned crucial championship-winning experience at Chennai City, Manzi is now aiming to win a second Hero I-League title with the Black Panthers.
"When I was here, I had a very good season. This time, I am trying to help the young players with the experience that I had the last time around. I talk with them, help them on the field. And if I can help my team by scoring the goals, that would be great. Our ultimate goal is to win the league," he said.
( With inputs from ANI )
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