Chennaiyin FC’s Vafa returns to competitive football after a year
CHENNAI: All it took was just one conversation – which went on for only seven minutes – to understand how much Chennaiyin FC’s Iranian centre-back Vafa Hakhamaneshi missed the ‘beautiful game’ of football.
After his brief spell at Thai top-division club Ratchaburi FC in June 2021, Vafa had to stay away from the sport due to personal reasons. “Football is not only my job but also my life,” the towering defender emphasised while interacting with DT Next on Saturday. Having resolved a “big problem” at home, the 31-year-old brought ‘life’ back to his football career by inking a one-season deal with Indian Super League outfit Chennaiyin at the end of June.
On a comeback trail, Vafa, currently with the squad in Kolkata preparing for the Durand Cup, said that the CFC ‘family’ has made ‘life’ easier for him with a “good atmosphere”.
On being away from competitive football for a year
My family had a big problem, so I had to be with it and help recover the minds of everyone at home. It was so hard. Football is not only my job but also my life. This (football) is my life, so it was pretty hard. But, it was not much of a problem because family means everything to me. When my family members are relaxed and their minds are free, I feel better.
On what he did during that one-year period
I stayed with my family all the time. We faced a big problem, but everything is done (solved) now. I tried to recover and find a solution for the problem. My new-born baby (a boy) joined our family recently, so everything is fine now. For me, it is time for a new life and a new challenge. I am delighted to return to football.
On returning to action via Chennaiyin FC
I heard many people refer to Chennaiyin as a ‘family’, but I did not understand what they meant. After joining the team and spending time with the coaches, players and staff, I understood that Chennaiyin is not only a football team but also a family. I am so happy to be at this big club. I have received a lot of help on my comeback. These are good moments for me and I made the right choice to come to Chennaiyin. Even if I had joined a club that is bigger than Chennaiyin, I do not think the atmosphere would have been as good as it is here. A good atmosphere keeps everyone together. The Chennaiyin family has helped me make a comeback, so I am pretty happy.
On whether he is back to his best
As I already told you, football is not only my job but also my life. I am so happy to get back on the pitch. It has been a month since I began training [with Chennaiyin]. I feel fresh now. We are pushing ourselves to become better than before. We have been training hard, so everything has been good.
On the pre-season preparations
Good training, good food, good rest, good hotel, good staff, good coaches, good organisation. Everything has been good. Good camp in Kolkata (where the team is preparing for the upcoming Durand Cup) and good pre-season matches. We have a big chance to win the Durand Cup (which will be hosted in three cities between August 16 and September 18). We need to focus on our game and help Chennaiyin make a comeback [this season].
On his centre-back partner Fallou Diagne
He is a big player who has played in Europe. He is very friendly. We stay in the same room. We have been together for a month now (both in Chennai and Kolkata). He is a guy I like. He is a good choice for the team.
On working under head coach Thomas Brdaric
He was a big player. He has already shown his quality as a coach. There is hard training, which is good for our team. When you keep trying, you get good results. When you do not try, it is difficult to get wins. Thomas is a very good person and sets a huge target every time. He is not just eyeing the Durand Cup. He wants to win the championship (ISL League Winners Shield) and get the team into the AFC Champions League or the AFC Cup. Thomas will help Chennaiyin move up [the ladder].