Petar, Chennaiyin's headmaster

For the 31-year-old, his head is as essential as his feet, with which the beautiful game is predominantly played.
Chennaiyin FC’s Croatian centre-forward Petar Sliskovic
Chennaiyin FC’s Croatian centre-forward Petar Sliskovic

CHENNAI: On his Instagram display picture, Chennaiyin FC’s Croatian centre-forward Petar Sliskovic is seen balancing a football on his forehead.

For the 31-year-old, his head is as essential as his feet, with which the beautiful game is predominantly played. The 6’4’’ tall striker’s head is currently worth its weight in gold and is proving to be an invaluable asset for Chennaiyin.

With seven of his eight goals in CFC colours – two in the Durand Cup and five in the ongoing Indian Super League 2022-23 – coming via headers, his current employer might not mind wrapping up his head in cotton wool during training sessions.

So, how does Petar, a monster while battling in aerial duels, perform the role of a fox in the box to a tee on a consistent basis? The target man attributed it to Chennaiyin head coach Thomas Brdaric’s philosophy and the hard yards he put in during his time at German club Mainz. “I think that it is about our (CFC’s) style,” Petar told DT Next.

“We play more from the outside, more from the wings. We do not play a lot through the middle. I am a tall guy, so I use my head to score goals. When crosses are put into the box… I am very lucky to be in that area. Also, I work hard on it (heading), so I score lots of headed goals. In the past, I worked on it extensively when I was at Mainz (from 2010 to 2015 and then in 2017),” explained Petar, the club’s second highest scorer in ISL season 9.

‘Hope to score more in the second half of the ISL season’

A nailed-on starter under Brdaric, Petar has chipped in with three assists besides five goals in ISL 2022-23. But, his game is much more than just goals and assists, on which forwards are usually judged at. He acts as an outlet in the opposition half and keeps the rival defenders on their toes even when he is not in goal-scoring positions.

Asked if he is satisfied with his performances thus far, Petar replied: “I think that they (goal contributions) are okay (fine). I think that I was unlucky in the first few matches. I hit the woodwork a couple of times and the opponents’ goalkeepers made some great saves.

I hope to score more in the next 10 [league] matches and help the team reach the play-offs (Chennaiyin is seventh on the table with 14 points from 10 matches). I think that I can help the team not only with my goals but also with my work rate.”

Family’s assist off the pitch

Petar’s upturn in form coincided with his family’s visit to Chennai last month. His mother and sister were in attendance at the ‘Marina Arena’ for the home match against Mumbai City FC on November 12, when the Croat netted his maiden ISL goal. “I am a family-oriented man; family is very important for me. Yes, of course, it (their presence) helped me,” said Petar.

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