There’s just something about gritty comeback stories. One such story in the I-League has been that of Willis Plaza, arguably the best foreign recruit for Churchill Brothers. Plaza was in sublime form last season, finishing as the joint top scorer in the league alongside Pedro Manzi of Chennai City.
While the 32-year-old has now become a force to be reckoned with, his career in the league has been a chequered one.
He did fairly well in the 2016-17 season after being signed by East Bengal FC, scoring nine goals in his 14 appearances for the club.
However, the Caribbean footballer went through a rough patch in the 2017-18 season, where he could only manage two goals in 10 outings. It was then that his critics came to the fore and after poor performances on the trot, he was finally released by the Kolkata giants.
The true mark of a champion is how they respond when the odds are stacked against them. And Plaza’s comeback story is no different. It is quite evident from his last stint with Churchill Brothers, where he found the net 21 times in 20 outings.
All of this, however, is on-screen action. The journey becomes more intriguing when you hear about it from the man himself.
“The 2017-18 season was a bad one, not only for me but also my family. At that time, my brother had cancer. So, it impacted me both on and off the field. After he passed away, I took a while away (in the off-season). He always wanted me to do well. I started to think more about my family rather than myself. That’s what made me feel stronger, responsible and focussed,” he told Firstpost.
It is probably the forward’s hunger to succeed that sets him apart from the crowd. No wonder, when he spoke a little at the official launch of the 13th edition of the I-League in New Delhi, he was confident that he will finish as the sole highest goal scorer in the upcoming season.
“Last season, even though I finished as the joint top goal scorer, I missed a few chances. But this time, I’ll make sure that I am standing on the top,” he said.
Clubs cannot undermine the importance of Indian players in their line-ups since they form a majority. The Trinidadian, too, heaped praise on the “young talent” in his side and pointed out a few promising Indian players.
“We have a lot of young talent. We have Vineet Pujari and Glen Martin, they’re really talented. We also have Mapuia, who was previously with Aizawl. So, (I'm) really expecting a lot from these guys and looking forward to a brilliant season.”
Apart from his comeback story and the I-League, Plaza also shed light on his "troubled" childhood days and how football became his calling.
“I started playing football because I was a troubled child. My mother wanted me to take my energy out into doing something positive rather than negative. So, she put me into football. And now, it’s my life,” he signed off with a cheeky smile on his face.
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Updated Date: Nov 23, 2019 01:01:23 IST