Most marquee/foreign players in the Indian Super League (ISL) come to India in the twilight of their careers. The league is their final frontier and it wouldn’t be unfair to call the ISL as the last hurrah for some. Expecting a marquee/foreign player to show passion for a newly-formed league would therefore be disingenuous but Kerala Blasters FC player Josué Currais Prieto defies all preconceived notions about a foreign player’s role in the ISL.
In an exclusive interview with FirstpostSports, the 23-year old Josué talked about his experience at La Masia (the Barcelona youth set up), his footballing roots and the incredible support of the Kerala Blasters FC fans.
In his second year with the Blasters, Josué, a Catalonian, is a long way from home. But this feeling of a new country and new surroundings is second nature to the left back. After plying his trade in La Liga, Finland, Italy and even the US, Josué finds himself in India – specifically, in Kerala. But his journey as a footballer began in a small town in Catalonia.
“I went to La Masia when I was 16. But before that I played in the small team of my city for one year. Then the big team of my city (UE Figueres) signed me and I played there for seven years before moving to Girona, one of the biggest clubs in Catalonia after Barcelona. I played for a year at Girona before moving to La Masia.
The famed La Masia has sprung the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique.
But unlike Pique, whose family is footballing royalty in Barcelona, Josué had a humble background.
“My grandparents didn’t want my father to play professional football, so he played amateur football and after that I started football when I was seven years old and that’s how I began playing the game,” said the Catalonian.
Every player dreams of joining La Masia and many are able to realise their dreams. But not all players get to continue their ascension to the first team.
“La Masia was an unbelievable experience. It was a dream come true. I was there for three years and then after that they wanted me to go out on loan but I didn’t want that so I moved to Espanyol, the second biggest team in Barcelona. I played one year there and I made my debut as a professional player for Espanyol and then I went to Finland.”
The jump from La Masia to Espanyol to Finland and now India has taken Josué to many places but his thoughts on the ISL as a league is a solid stamp on the quality of football on display.
“If I am honest, the experience has been amazing. I am grateful and I only have nice words for the ISL,” says Josué. “I think it's decent football because there is big talent – big players here. Also the level of the Indian players is getting much better. So I think it’s a very, very strong league – and getting stronger year by year and I think it’ll get bigger next year because the level is improving.”
His insistence on knowing the players and being an integral part of the club make him a unique case among all the foreign players on display in the ISL. Most marquee players are known to either stick to their countrymen or mind their own but Josué believes in the importance of team-building.
“We got very good young Indian team players. I think Farukh Chaudhary, Prashant and Pratik Chowdhury are all talented players. We just need to work together more and it’s going to happen. The three points will come,” says the optimistic 23-year-old.
But three points have been tough to come by. While their opponents on Friday, Mumbai, are currently enjoying a good spell of results, Kerala Blasters FC have only managed a solitary point in three matches.
Having scored no goals this season, Josué and Kerala Blasters are flabbergasted by their dry run in terms of goals. “I don’t know what to say about this. I think we are a little unlucky. In the first game against NorthEast United FC we didn’t deserve to lose the game because they didn’t do too much to deserve three points. The Kolkata game too – they had a lucky goal as they had a deflection from one of our players,” says the attacking midfielder. “Against Delhi, we handled the game very well. We had the ball for most periods. I think when we score the first goal; things are going to become much easier for us.”
But his optimism once again shines through as he says, “Well we are not at the bottom of the league at the moment! But I think we are improving game by game. There are still 11 games left to play. So when we finish the league we can speak about where we are.”
The time he spent at La Masia may be the reason he says this but Josué’s efforts in being a team player are apparent. “My aim for this year is to lift the cup. Goals… I don’t know! I didn’t come here thinking – Okay I will score five goals. I’m taking it game by game. For me it’s most important to play, help the team and lift the cup.”
Josué's love for India is also evident in the tattoo of Lord Ganesha that he has over his left arm. After spending four months in India with the ISL, he fell in love with the country and wanted some memories to stay with him forever, serving as a constant reminder of his love. As a foreigner, Josué's introduction to the elephant god Ganesha is synonymous with and ties back to his memory with the Kerala Blasters FC. The irony is that he is now up against a team from Maharashtra, a region of India that fervently celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi and worships Lord Ganesha.
This carefree, yet competitive attitude of Josué is what makes him such a fan favorite. And the appreciation for the Kerala Blasters FC fans, who turn up in droves for home matches, is not lost on him.
“For me, Kerala Blasters FC have the best fans in India – one of the best fans in the world. So I cannot say anything but how unbelievable their support is, the way they scream and the way they live football,” says Josué. “They keep the love for the team and continue supporting us as they do and I hope we can give them three points soon – maybe tomorrow.”