Former Spanish international defender Carlos Marchena had joined the Kerala Blasters as their marquee signing in the second edition of the Indian Super League (ISL).
Marchena, unfortunately, could appear in just one ISL match for the Blasters, as he had to part ways with the club in the middle of the season due to a back injury which he had suffered during the pre-season.
Current Kerala Blasters assistant coach Ishfaq Ahmed, who was a part of the Blasters playing squad back then, recalled his experience with Spanish World Cup winner.
“We are still in touch and he is my good friend now. He is one of the nicest persons I have met. He is very down to earth and intelligent. He had a superb technique. It was the last season of his career and he was 35 or 36 at that time. He could have easily played more but he had some back issues. Other than his injuries, he never missed a single day of training while at Kerala Blasters. He was a perfect team man," he told Goal.
The centre-back, who had a stellar career with Valencia and the Spanish national team, was a very warm person, felt Ishfaq.
“Carlos was always a very welcoming guy. Whenever someone approached him he always spoke with them. I was very fortunate to get a Spanish national team jersey from the 2010 World Cup. It was such a warm gesture. He went back to Spain after getting injured but while returning to India he remembered that I had asked him for the jersey and he was kind enough to bring me back the World Cup uniform.
“It was a heart touching moment for me that a player of his stature remembered my request. I was not very close to him at that time as he had just arrived. But now we are good friends," shared Ishfaq, highlighting how humble and approachable a person Marchena was.
The former Dempo winger suggested that despite language barriers, the Spanish defender never hesitated to help a youngster.
“His English was limited but he had translators. He would always encourage all the players. We were very surprised to see his technique. He used to train for free-kicks also and being a defender his set-piece technique was wonderful. He could strike the ball from even 40 yards,” said Ahmed.
He continued, “The most important thing is he used to always encourage the young players. Whether he was playing or he was on the bench he always used to egg the players on, say nice things to give the players confidence.”
On asked what he personally learned from a player of Carlos Marchena’s stature, the Kerala Blasters assistant coach said, “I learned more off the field. He was among the top players of the world during his playing days and yet when he came to India, he was so humble. He was an extremely humble person and humility is the thing which I learned from him."