CHENNAI: After firing Chennaiyin FC to a third victory on the trot against Jamshedpur on Thursday with two goals, the club's Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis must have been logging on to various travel sites at night. The victory had greatly enhanced the club’s chances of making the playoffs and that meant Valskis' family had to come down to India one more time.
After its inception in 2014, the Indian Super League has seen players from around the world come and play for its various teams. For these players, the opportunity to play here often means a better payday than other comparable leagues and an exotic new adventure. But the flip side, for them, is having to be away from their family for extended periods of time.
For some players, this can be the toughest thing. Valskis, who currently tops the scoring charts with 10 goals, is one of them. The Lithuanian is well-travelled, having played in Belarus, Latvia, Romania, Poland, Israel and Thailand. The 32-year-old says he has always embraced the opportunity to experience new cultures and has never needed much time to settle anywhere.
However, being away from family is not the easiest thing to handle for him. “I’ve always been happy wherever I’ve moved,” he said. “But I miss my family. They’ve already visited two times. I have two beautiful kids. My daughter’s four-and-a-half years old and my son is two-and-a-half. They’re both crazy but that’s normal in this age. We speak on the phone every day. They miss me, I miss them. They need their father. But I do everything for my family and they understand that.”
To ensure that they’re never apart for too long, Valskis and his family have mapped out a calendar of visits, something that would have to be amended if Chennaiyin make the playoffs. “It’s hard, but then, you know that you won’t be playing football until you’re 50!
My position is that I should not go without seeing my family for more than one-and-a-half months. That’s the maximum. In that period, either they must come or I must go, for at least one week. This way, you feel like there is not too much distance. If you’re away from them for say, three months, it becomes very difficult.
"When I started pre-season, they came down once and stayed two-three weeks. After the Bengaluru game (in November), we had some time off, so I went for one week. And then, they came down for Christmas and the new year. They left only three weeks ago. If we go to the playoffs, then they will come back."
Valskis has always made it a point to travel around whatever country he plays in — his Instagram feed has a number of pictures of him soaking up Thailand. But he hasn’t done that in India yet. “I haven’t had the time to understand how beautiful India is. Not this season,” he says. “I hope I get to do that next season if I stay. When this season is over, I will just go back to my family.”