Julius, The Duke of Chennai

German says he likes to take responsibility and lead the team from the middle of the pitch.
Julius Duker
Julius Duker Manivasagan

CHENNAI: Since his arrival in India, Chennaiyin FC’s midfield phenom Julius Duker has been gliding past his on-field challengers, making the pitch his playground. Deployed as a deep-lying midfielder by head coach Thomas Brdaric, Duker has been shielding the backline to good effect besides spraying easy-on-the-eye passes from the heart of the field. The enviable flair in his game and his wand of a left foot have earned the German many admirers in this land. “If the fans love the style, it is good for me,” Duker told DT Next on Thursday. Duker also spoke about his maiden stint – ongoing – outside Germany, role in the Chennaiyin team, targets for the Indian Super League 2022-23 and more.

EXCERPTS

On how the transfer to Chennaiyin FC materialised

•I played in Germany for eight years, in the second and third tiers. My agent knows our coach Thomas Brdaric; they had worked together in the past. Petar Sliskovic and I have the same agent, so that is how we (him and the club) got in contact. The coach asked me if I was willing to go on an adventure. From the first second, the idea looked nice. I thought “why not? Now is a good time.” I am 26 years old; I do not have a wife and kids at home.

On moving out of Germany

•Of course, I thought a little bit before signing the CFC contract. I did not have much time to think about it. The team had already started training (pre-season in Chennai in July). I had only four-five days to think about it.

On adapting to the Indian Super League

•Sometimes, there is not much structure on the pitch; there are a lot of moves in both attack and defence. In Germany, everything is structured. So, I had a little problem at the start. By knowing each other well, we (Chennaiyin) are getting better and better.

On his style of play, which the fans have been enjoying

•I play in the middle; it is an important position. I like to get (receive) a lot of balls and play (pass) them to my teammates. Not every time do I need to score or assist. I like to give the team a structure. I like to take responsibility and lead from the middle [of the pitch]. When you play in the middle, you do not have much time. The most important thing is to have confidence. It is easy to have confidence when you play well. But, you need to have confidence even after making a mistake. Playing in midfield, I need to have the mental strength to tackle situations. If the fans love it (style), it is good for me.

On playing in front of the Chennaiyin fans at the Marina Arena

•In Germany, I have played in front of nice fans. I know how it feels, but this time (the home match against Bengaluru FC last week) was special. Before the match, there was a huge crowd on the road. They danced, sang and laughed. I sent the videos to my friends and family. Everybody was surprised. I hope that the fans come in the same numbers for our upcoming home matches and that we can celebrate good games.

On operating alongside skipper Anirudh Thapa and Jiteshwor Singh

•We are different types of footballers, which is good. I am tall and I have strength. Thapa and Jiteshwor move around well. I do not have good movements.

On the togetherness in the CFC group

•For sure, we have the team spirit. The team spirit is one of our biggest strengths. We all stay in the same hotel. A few of us go out for lunch sometimes. In Chennai, we once went outside to have a burger. In Kolkata (during the Durand Cup), we went to Park Street. It was funny to sit with six or seven others in tuk-tuk (auto). I have never seen that before.

On the objectives for the ISL season

•We need to have a good start. That is the most important thing. We have only 20 [league] games. In the next games, we need to win and score some points. We will see. We want to be in the top-six and qualify for the play-offs.

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