Chennaiyin’s Vafa clears comeback test with flying colours
CHENNAI: For Vafa Hakhamaneshi, making a successful comeback was going to be a tall order.
After all, the Iranian had been a long-term absentee from competitive football – for as many as 14 months. But, the colossal Chennaiyin FC centre-back cleared the test with flying colours.
Handed a CFC debut by chief coach Thomas Brdaric for the crucial Durand Cup Group C clash against TRAU FC in Imphal on Thursday, Vafa gobbled up the golden opportunity, giving the ‘home’ team the blues at both ends of the field. Despite showing signs of rustiness at times, the 31-year-old delivered a no-nonsense defensive act, with his crunching tackles and dominance in aerial duels standing out.
He put the cherry on top of the cake with his maiden goal in Chennaiyin colours. “After time off from competitions, it was wonderful to fight with my friends for the success of our team. It was nice to finish the match with victory (CFC emerged triumphant 4-1), score a goal and leave a good performance on the field,” said Vafa.
Since Senegalese central defender Fallou Diagne was suspended for the TRAU match after being shown the marching orders in the Hyderabad FC game, Brdaric opted for a like-for-like replacement in Vafa. The Asian signing was forced to play with different partners – Md. Sajid Dhot in the first half and Narayan Das in the second period – at the base of the defence either side of the breather, but he hardly put a foot wrong.
“Every win gives you a sense of satisfaction. The whole team worked hard for the success. Personally, I was able to help the team on the way to victory,” Vafa added.
A few minutes after the restart, Vafa displayed the attacking threat he possesses, when he buried his header home following an immaculate corner-kick from skipper Anirudh Thapa. “I knew even before the match that I would score because I had promised to do so to someone I love very much. Thank God, I was able to make her happy with the goal. I dedicated the goal to her,” said Vafa, who produced a ‘heart’ goal celebration.
Was his memorable CFC debut a trailer of things to come? Only time will tell.