Very few Indian players can boast of being part of historic title-winning sides like Jayesh Rane can. The decorated ATK attacking midfielder has an enviable CV, with one I-League title and two Indian Super League (ISL) titles to his name.
Jayesh was part of the Chennaiyin FC squad that sported a spirited comeback in the 2015 ISL to clinch the title. They won their last four games in the league phase, as required and defeated ATK, FC Goa in the following rounds to make the improbable possible.
He was also an integral part of the Aizawl FC side that defied all odds to write an incredible footballing story in the 2016-17 I-League season. Khalid Jamil’s men became the first team from North-East India to win the national title, despite not having any star name.
Recently, the 27-year-old won his second ISL title, this time with ATK which became the first side to win the competition thrice. Understandably, he was unable to pick a favourite when he spoke to Goal.
“All the tournaments were memorable. In the I-League when I played for Aizawl FC, no one thought we would win. But it became one of the best stories you've heard. Even with Chennaiyin FC (In 2015), no one thought we would win. We had to win five games in the last five games. We did it and won the trophy. You can say that all three were memorable for me,” he said.
All players have that one coach with whom they share a special bond and are able to play to their potential under them. While Jayesh claimed to have learnt a lot from all the coaches he played under, he reserved a special mention for Khalid.
He credited the former Aizawl and Mumbai FC coach for his development and versatility.
“It was always Khalid (Jamil). He was the one who picked me up at Mumbai FC where I started my career. There are many coaches I have trained under – at Air India it was Godfrey Pereira and then there was my uncle Rajesh Rahane.
“But it was Khalid Jamil who stood out. He knows how to handle players. There were no superstars in the team at Aizawl. He knew how to bring the best out of everyone. He knows me very well from the beginning and what I was capable of. And hence played me at central midfield that season.
“He knows where to use the players. He is very intelligent in all this."
Rane also paid credit to his former coaches and explained how playing in different styles has helped him improve his game.
“Everyone had their own style. I was with (Marco) Materazzi for three years. He was very strict on the field, like all foreign coaches I’ve played under. But Materazzi was chill (off the field). He used to say that we could do whatever we wanted off the field but on the pitch, he always demanded our 100 per cent. That is all he asked for. I got to learn different styles. From Materazzi, I learn the Italian style which was different defensively. I got to learn a lot. I was with Steve Coppell, Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Keane, and Antonio Habas. All their styles were different,” he explained.
Rane started his career as a striker and went on to play at multiple positions. A crucial element in any squad, Rane has practically played everywhere on the pitch bar between the posts and in central defence. Once again, he had words of praise for Khalid who believed in testing his players at multiple positions.
“I am a player who loves to adjust anywhere. I don’t mind where I play as long as I play football. Whatever the coach asks me to do, I would love to do it. Every coach has their own style and you need to adjust as a player.
“At Mumbai FC I started off as a striker. Ashutosh (Mehta) was there in my team at that time and he used to play as a right-winger. I was not a regular and joined mid-way. In most of my junior career, I played as a striker.
“Khalid Jamil knew that with my body type, you can’t play as a striker in Indian football because strikers are usually big. So, he used me as a winger. Then I played as a right-back, left-back, centre-half, and every other position. I give all the credit to Khalid Jamil because he used to play me in every position. He likes to try playing everyone in different positions.
“Whenever a coach asks me if I can play in a certain position because a player is injured, I am always up for it,” said Jayesh.
He also spoke about how Fiji star Roy Krishna motivated the youngsters at ATK last season. As for his personal goals, Jayesh is looking to achieve his first national team call-up. He has also made it his mission to impress in his first-ever Asian outing as ATK-Mohun Bagan gear up for their AFC Cup 2021 campaign.
“Elano, (Stevin) Mendoza, (Bernard) Mendy, Robbie Keane and many other players were active in mentoring the youngsters. I learnt a lot from them. This season, Roy (Krishna) stood out as a player who encouraged youngsters and motivated them.
“My goal was always to play for the national team and that will always be there. We will be playing AFC Cup with ATK now. I have never played in that competition before, so winning that would be a goal,” he concluded.