NEW DELHI: At the launch of the new season of the I-league in New Delhi, Willis Plaza of Churchill Brothers was asked whether he could repeat his 21-goal showing from last season which fetched him the joint top scorer’s prize. Pat came his reply, “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 at the top.”
This confidence, the 32-year-old said stems from the fact that he feels the Goan club have really gelled as a team and their collective spirit will help him in his goal.“Everyone plays for the team. Even if I miss a chance, I know the team will work hard to give me another opportunity. And as long as I keep working hard, I’m confident in my abilities and I know what I can produce,” the striker, who already has three goals to his kitty, told this daily.
Churchill are currently fourth on the table with two victories in as many outings, having played a couple of matches less than sides above them. And the two-time I-League champions are being considered as one of the favourites for the crown. Does this add to the pressure? “We feel no pressure. We know where we stand. We know as a group, we can definitely challenge for the title but at this moment, we need to take things match by match.”
The Trinidad and Tobago international has been in the country for some time now. He started off with Kolkata giants East Bengal and for the first season at least, it looked like the Red and Gold brigade had found a top notch striker. Then the second season syndrome hit and with only two goals in 10 games, he was eventually shown the door.
“The fans wanted instant results, the club management wanted the same. Sometimes, a lot goes on behind the scenes which few people are aware of. Off-field issues robbed me of the chance to continue my good form.”His brother, one of his staunchest supporters and his closest aide, was diagnosed with Leukemia and Plaza was shocked to the core. “I could not think straight and I cried on most nights. Nobody understood and when your mental peace is not there it is difficult to perform on the field.”
After his brother’s death, Plaza spent a long time with his family to get his bearings back and he will be grateful to Churchill for allowing him time to grieve. And he repaid that faith not only be becoming top-scorer but by staying on with the club despite a number of lucrative offers from the ISL. “I’m a man of my word. This club has helped me deal with those turbulent times and the biggest gift I can give to the management and the supporters is the title this season.”