Dabang Mumbai's Affan Yousuf
Table-Toppers Dabang Mumbai, biding for a first Hockey India League title, will face Delhi Waveriders in the second semi-finals of season five today. Mumbai skipper Florian Fuchs has continuously stressed on the consistent performances of the Indian youngsters and their creation of goal-scoring chances which the team lacked last year, being the sole reason for the side’s ascent this time.
Dabang Mumbai’s Affan Yousuf is one such player who has been a standout performer. With eight goals this season (the fourth highest in the league), the 22-year-old forward has had a telling effect on Mumbai’s strike force. Yousuf heaped praise on his skipper and teammate Kieran Govers for the help they provided him to better his skills on the field.
“Florian and Kieran are like my brothers. Whatever mistakes I make, they sit down and rectify them with me. Every time after training or at the airport, Fuchs, Govers and I discuss about our positioning and how can we receive the ball better,” the Bhopal-born told mid-day yesterday.
Another prominent member from Dabang Mumbai’s attacking unit Nikkin Thimmaiah, who dazzled during his early years for the Indian team, also felt there has been a dramatic change in the youngsters’ style after playing with the foreigners. “The foreigners and I share a good bond. I talk to Fuchs because he is a forward. He helps me better my tactics once I receive the ball. We make fun of each other and in that way our relationship builds up. The atmosphere is amazing,” the 26-year-old Thimmaiah, who was forced to miss out on the HIL last year due to a shoulder injury in 2015, added.
Playing alongside foreign stars has helped both Yousuf and Thimmaiah this season. “It’s very important that foreigners play with us youngster at this stage. In that way Hockey India League is really helping our cause. Their style will definitely rub on to us. When I started off playing, I was not experienced, but now playing with the foreigners, I know I can get better,” Yousuf explained.
Thimmaiah also echoed the same sentiments as his teammate. “When you share a changing room with them, you get to know how to prepare before a game and also how to make a comeback when you’re out of form. We get a good pep talk from them and get to know their game as well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Yousuf, whose family legacy boasts of Indian stars such as his father Mohammad Yousuf and uncle Sameer Dad, does admit to pick their brains sometimes. “Just four days back, I spoke to my uncle. He told that it is fine that I am scoring goals, but I also need to keep passing the ball. In that way the team will benefit,” Yousuf added.