Atletico de Kolkata midfielder Ofentse ‘Size 10′ Nato says he is enjoying his football in the newly-launched Indian Super League (ISL) and has given credit to his Spaniard coach Antonio Lopez Habas. Since joining Kolkata last month, Nato has featured in an all the 10 games playing 900 minutes of football.
“So far I’m enjoying every moment and I must say I’ve been impressed by the level of competition here. I want to give credit to the coach because he knows my abilities having worked with him before (at Bidvest Wits in the South African Premier League). Antonio is a very good coach and expects his players to always give their best. He is a tough coach though off the field he is so fun to be around,” Nato said few hours before their game away to Kerala Blasters at Jewaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday afternoon.
Though his move to the Indian League was met by negative response from the local fans considering that Indians are best known for cricket, Nato said that the perception people have about the standard of the league there is wrong. “The standard here is very high and professional. There is a notion that Indian League is for old people but they tend to forget that this is just the beginning. There was a need to bring big name players in order to bring the supporters to the stadiums. There are some young and talented youngsters here. Since the League started, there is lots of interest,” Nato continued.
Since the beginning, ISL has attracted a lot of former internationals like Brazilian Elano who used to ply his trade at Manchester City, Luis Garcia who won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool, Marco Materazzi who is best known for his clash with Zinedine Zidane at the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany. There is also David James (ex Liverpool), Mikael Silvestre (ex Manchester Unite) and the trio of Fredie Ljungberg, Nicholas Anelka and Robert Pires who all used to wear the Arsenal jersey during their heydays. “It is a good feeling to play against some of the stars who I used to watch on television. It is a good experience because I believe I’m going to learn a lot just from rubbing shoulders with them. I’m honoured to be in the same team with Luis because he has lots of experience. He is always guiding us and sharing his career experiences with us,” he said.
Nato has encouraged other local players to try out their luck in the ISL because it can help them grow. He pointed out that there is a lot of talent in Botswana which needs to be exposed to the world. “If an opportunity arises, they must come and try out their luck here. Our players must not be afraid of challenges because they help an individual to grow. This would also help the national team ÔÇô the more we have lots of players outside the country the better,” he said.
On allegations that he reported for Zebras’ camp drunk last month, Nato said it pains him because the football nation was fed with lies. “I wonder why the coach (Peter Butler) would allow me to train if indeed I was drunk. Why is it that he would claim I was drunk only after our misunderstanding? My name has been dragged in the mud and in the future I would take necessary steps if the situation doesn’t change,” said Nato.
Despite the problems, the Mogobane-born star said he is prepared to smoke a peace pipe with the technical team if they still need his services. “I’ve resigned from the Zebras after false allegations because I was not happy. In a letter I’ve written to BFA (Botswana Football Association), I’ve made it clear that I’ll be available if the technical team wants to meet with me. But to my disappointment, nobody has responded or at least acknowledged receipt of the letter,” he said.
He thanked all those who have supported him through thick and thin. He promised that he will continue working hard to take his career further. “The support has been fantastic and I’m humbled. Whenever I go into the field I know that I’m not only representing myself or family but hordes of fans back home,” he concluded.