Mohanraj, hailing from Namakkal, played for Atletico de Kolkata, the inaugural season champions, for the first two years. While Ganesh was part of Chennaiyin last year, he was sidelined soon after the pre-season owing to an injury and spent the rest of the season in the confines of his hotel room.
The 25-year-old, who has been part of the Pune FC academy setup, had also made himself one of national team boss, Stephen Constantine’s favourites as he made five appearances for India before being unluckily sidelined. With the injury behind him, the midfielder’s focus is solely on his performance. Taking it in his stride, Ganesh said he was happy to be given another chance to play for his hometown team. “I have forgotten all about my injury. This is a new season. I am now raring to go and hitting the training regime is the first thing on my mind,” the Vysarpadi boy added.
Mohanraj, who had to leave Tamil Nadu in 2006 in search of greener pastures, was over the moon on his homecoming. “I am glad that I am part of Marco Materazzi’s plans. That was important in my deciding to sign up for Chennaiyin FC. I grew up at the Nehru Stadium. It was a dream of 10 years to play for Chennai in Chennai in a big league. It was unfortunate that I had to miss out on playing against Chennaiyin here in the first two seasons. All the pain has vanished now,” the 27-year-old added.
With the league offering a deluge of learning opportunities for Indian players, Mohanraj said he inculcated off-field discipline in his stint with Atletico. “I played with a lot of Spanish players. Hard work was of prime importance and the behaviour off-field was what I looked up to. The discipline they have in training, warm-ups and in smaller aspects such as dinner etc is what makes them so successful. I have also learnt to control my emotions, be it after winning or losing. My stint has helped me shift the focus on what needs to be done for a better tomorrow,” the Namakkal-born player added.
Mohanraj hoped the ISL will give a new identity for Chennai football. “Kolkata has a brand in Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Chennai’s football culture of the 60s and 70s is long lost. The players now are happy in getting a government job resulting in football taking a back seat. I hope that Chennaiyin FC can change that scenario soon and give a lease of life for football hopefuls,” Mohanraj concluded.