Mumbai City FC's Argentine winger Matias Defederico
When Mumbai City FC announced the signing of Argentina winger Matias Defederico for season 3 of the Indian Super League (ISL), head coach Alexandre Guimaraes had this to say: “Defederico possesses immense skill and talent. We are confident that he will be a huge asset for the team in the upcoming season.”
Call it prophecy or just Guimaraes’ ability to spot talent, the Buenos Aires-born player has not just been an asset, but his explosive dribbling and left foot has been influential in the side’s journey to seal a playoffs berth for the first time in the ISL.
Matty, as he’s fondly called by his teammates, made his debut for Argentine Club Atletico Huracan in 2007. After establishing himself there, he soon plied his trade with South American heavyweights like Corinthians and Independiente. But the highlight of his growing career was in 2009 when he scored on debut for the Argentina national team formed by legend Diego Maradona. A goal and an assist by Defederico saw La Albiceleste cap off a brilliant 3-1 win against Panama in 2009. “At that time I was 19 and was playing really well. It was the best that I have played in my career till now and it was only fitting that Maradona chose me,” Defederico told mid-day yesterday, when quizzed about his ascension to the national team.
The 27-year-old shared an instance of what Maradona was like when he was with the players. “I met him during the first training we had. He was very friendly and was just like another player. He would make the players feel that he is not a legend. In a way he would bridge the gap between him and the players,” Defederico, who has also met his country’s superstars like Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, added. “I met them but never got to play with them. We spoke about football when we went out for dinners,” he said.
In 2009, Defederico was lauded as the next Messi. But on hindsight, reckons he can never stand a chance to play for Argentina again. “There are better players than me out there and they deserve a place more than me in the team,” he said with a touch of humility in his tone.
Although a spot in the national side has evaded him since then, a call from his friend, Argentina player Nico Velez (plays for NorthEast United FC), pushed Defederico to display his skills on Indian shores. Under Maradona’s tutelage, the South American connect has followed him to India as well — having a Costa Rican coach has worked in his favour. “Yes, definitely, not only me but the others players too from Argentina and Brazil have benefited. The communication also is much easier,” Defederico, who also scored a goal on debut (against Pune City FC) for Mumbai, pointed out.
“It was one of the first proposals I got and the fact that the coach personally called me showed that the club has trust in me, so that raised my confidence while playing,” he added.
Matias gets a taste of India
Defederico has already gone sight-seeing, this being his first trip to India. “In the first week, I went with the team to the see the Gateway of India. Today, I plan to take my dad there,” he said. Indian food has not gone down too well for him. “It’s very spicy, so for me it’s a little difficult. Once I ate the food and it was not a good experience,” he guffawed.
Other than co-owner Ranbir Kapoor, Defederico admits he knows no other B-Town actors. “But I have listened to a few Hindi songs,” he said. Although the ISL has been a great experience, he does miss his wife and kids a lot. “When I am in the hotel I think about them, so sometimes it gets a bit difficult,” Defederico, who is married to Cinthia Fernandez, said. The couple have three daughters —Charis, Bella and Francesca.