CHENNAI: Winger Nandha Kumar became the third player from Tamil Nadu to join the ISL following his completion of a one-year loan move to Delhi Dynamos from I-League side Chennai City FC (CCFC). He follows the footsteps of former India players Dhanpal Ganesh and N Mohanraj who play for Chennaiyin FC and ATK respectively.

The 21-year-old Chennai lad emerged one of the key players for CCFC after he made his debut in the I-League last season. His impressive pace and movement with the ball on the left wing also earned him a maiden call-up to the India U-23 side, where he featured in two friendlies against Singapore. However, much to his disappointment, he has failed to graduate to the national side despite coach Stephen Constantine including 11 U-23 players in the probables list for the Asian Cup qualifier against Macau next month.

Nandha said that joining ISL might open the doors to the senior national side. “Most of the India players are playing in ISL. But more than that, I wanted to have the ISL experience. I wanted to know how it feels when you go up against legends like Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane. I am confident of my abilities and feel this is the right time to make the jump as this will give me the chance to learn more. ISL grabs more eyeballs and everyone will be watching. If I can perform well, a national call-up won’t be out of reach,” Nandha told TOI on Wednesday.

 Although Nandha is glad to have got the opportunity, he doesn’t have high expectations. Delhi Dynamos have players like Romeo Fernandes and Seityasen Singh on the wings and he might not even get regular starts, which he was assured of at CCFC. But Nandha is ready to prove himself. “Delhi have plenty of attacking options and they have an aggressive mindset. At the India camp, I have learnt how to create pressure on the defence and developed my skills further in scoring goals. I won’t deny that I am a bit nervous and I know chances will be limited. But I am ready for the grind,” said Nandha.
 The winger’s move to Delhi was possible because of the efforts of CCFC owner Rohit Ramesh. It was Rohit who had initiated talks with an agent after learning Nandha’s ‘wish to join Chennaiyin’. “When Nandha told us he wanted to play in ISL, we were sceptical of releasing him. But we thought even if we keep him, he might not be able to give his 100 per cent. We had players like Beautin, Rajapandi and Romario who play in the same position and are waiting for a chance. So we decided to release Nandha. We approached our agent and he initiated talks with Chennaiyin FC. But their offer didn’t match our expectations. Delhi tabled an offer next and we were happy to let him go on loan,” Rohit said.

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