ISL 2019-20: From Fiji Olympic heroics to ISL homecoming - The remarkable story of Roy Krishna

Goal.com

On August 7th 2016, the Fiji football team created history by registering their first-ever goal in the Olympics when they took the lead against defending gold medallists Mexico. ATK striker Roy Krishna was the man of the moment as he scored a monumental goal for his country.

The South-Pacific archipelago nation would lose the game 5-1 and finish last in the group that also contained Germany and South Korea with a goal difference of -22. But the Olympic experience and the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best talents in the world was something Krishna would never forget.

“Each game for us was a dream come true,” Krishna told the A-League’s website.

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“No one thought that Fiji was going to qualify to play against the teams in the world. Germany were the world champions and Mexico were the defending gold medallists and South Korea were runners up in the Asian [U-23] championships.

“So for us, it was a privilege to play amongst those guys and I think the boys really enjoyed every moment even if the results weren’t that great. We’re not just a rugby nation, we are also a football nation and we gave each team a run for their money especially in the first-half,” he said after the tournament.

At the club level, Roy enjoyed an incredible stint with Wellington Phoenix, the only team from New Zealand to play in the A-League. In 2018, he was named the Wellington Phoenix Player of the year for the 2017-18 season. His goal against Brisbane Roar was adjudged the Goal of the Year.

Roy Krishna Fiji v Mexico Olympic Games 07082016
Roy Krishna Fiji v Mexico Olympic Games 07082016

The prolific striker hence cemented himself as an indispensable asset for the club. Later that year, he wrote his name in the club’s history books as he overtook Paul Ifill's all-time tally of 33 goals. The Indian-origin striker finished the season with 19 goals from 27 matches and won the golden boot. He concluded his stint with the Phoenix with 52 goals in 125 games.

The expectations were high when he returned to his ancestral nation and signed for ATK. The then two-time Indian Super League (ISL) champions bolstered their squad with top signings, David Williams being the other notable name from the list.

With the club making such a powerful statement with the signings, the striking duo was required to fire from the word go and it did. The chemistry between the two players was incredible and Krishna fit into the team perfectly.

The 32-year-old became an untouchable name in the starting line-up immediately and played almost every minute of the league phase. This consistency at the top level despite playing about three games a week at high intensity is a testament to his fitness.

Roy is an embodiment of pace, power and precision, and this allowed him to gel into the counter-attacking ATK side very well. In time, it was no surprise that he was leading the race for the Golden Boot alongside Nerijus Valskis. The Fijian captain concluded the league phase with 14 goals and five assists.

ATK vs Bengaluru FC David Williams
ATK vs Bengaluru FC David Williams

Coming clutch in crunch fixtures is yet another characteristic that makes a player special. Roy’s time to prove his mettle arrived in the second leg of the play-off against Bengaluru FC when his team was tasked to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.

Although striking partner David Williams stole the headlines with his brace, Roy played a key role in the turnaround, slotting home Prabir Das’ cross with a sweet finish to set the come-back in motion.

The Fijian’s involvement in the final was cut short due to an injury, but he played his part in the win, assisting Javi Hernandez for the opener.

Roy hence achieved what he set out to after leaving the Phoenix – winning the ISL. From scoring his country’s first-ever goal in the Olympics to winning the league in his ancestral country, the second half of the last decade was surely kind to Roy’s professional career.

Now, he is set to make his Asian continental debut when he plays the AFC Cup for ATK next season.

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