Odisha FC began the new season of the Indian Super League (ISL 2021-22) with nine goals in its first two games and former Levante and Real Betis defender Hector Rodas scored two of them.
Rodas, a centre-back, is one of the club’s latest foreign recruitments as it strives to erase the memories of a dismal campaign last time around where it finished at the bottom of the table. The club has made a strong start to this campaign is currently placed fourth, with nine points from five games and will next take on Chennaiyin FC on Saturday.
ISL 2021-22: Odisha aims to bounce back against Chennaiyin after Jamshedpur drubbing
With a new manager and a fresh set of players, Rodas is among the leaders on the pitch and a vital link between defence and attack.
The Spaniard talks to Sportstar about his aspirations in the league, personally, and as a team.
How has your experience been playing in India?
I feel very good here. It is a new experience for me. I feel very comfortable – people are very close to me and are very helpful. It is very strange living in the bubble since this is the first time I am far from my family and country.
How difficult has it been to play without fans and behind closed doors?
I think it is difficult for the players – their family, their fans. For example, the foreigner players (without all their people) are all alone. It is difficult because your routine, your life is to stay with your family. Now you’re alone in the day, alone in your room.
You can only train, interact with your teammates and go to your room. It is difficult because we want to live our passion with our fans. Football without fans is not the same. The next year, I hope we can enjoy with the fans and our family.
Is your family is here or back home in Spain?
They’re in Spain, because of the situation. I have two small kids – so I prefer to live my experience first and, in the future, maybe bring them to live in and experience this country.
Your take on Lionel Messi winning the Ballon D’Or and Cristiano Ronaldo missing out on the top-5 for the first time since 2010?
For me Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world. What he showed in all these years – for me he is the best player.
I think the floor is open to arguments. Cristiano Ronaldo changed his team and his season was not (that) good. For Messi, his season wasn’t good with Barca, but he won the Copa America with his National team and individual trophies.
You have played in Spain, Belgium and now, India. Which league did you find most challenging?
I think the most important league in the world is the La Liga. I am lucky that I played there. I get promotions with Levante. I have played with Cordoba and then I played in Belgium and there the football is different – it is a more physical and more direct.
It is my first experience in India and, I cannot tell you about the level until the end of the season, but I really like this league – it is very competitive. It is exciting, because we play only three or four months all season.
What is the message of the coach Kiko Ramirez before each game – is it to defend first and then plan an attack or attack from the very beginning?
The coach tries to tell us that we have to keep our nerves with the defence and provide (more) chances for the team. I think the most important (of all) are the set pieces and balance.
Balance is so important for us – it is true that, in the second game, we won but it wasn’t the message that the boss wants. We have to do something (along those lines) to change those things, but we are happy with the wins.
What will be your goal this season, as a team and individually?
For the team, my goal is to always give my best to the team, to help Odisha in the league. I think the project is so important and in three years, they want to make good things and big things in India.
I know that Odisha wasn’t good last season. We know our team has very young players – they have to learn they have to work hard. We want to teach them, but we know there are good teams like Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, with players with more experience (in the league).
I know the level is different, but we want to fight and achieve what is best for Odisha. We want to continue working hard, teach these guys, make good decisions in the field and we will fight till the last game to get the best position in the league.
Personally, I want to earn back respect in the field. I have football in my legs. I am 33-years old, but I am hungry, I have happiness for football, because it is my passion. I have shown that while playing in India. I’m enjoying football and all I want is to wake up and enjoy football with my family.
I have played 17 years in Levante. It is my life and I hope to get back to Segunda Division. It is a dream for me to finish my career where I started.