Indian midfielder Bikash Jairu, who has been in rich form over the past few months, says the Indian Super League (ISL) experience is now helping him succeed at various levels of the game.
"The ISL experience is helping me now. I got to learn a lot from the coach (David Platt of FC Pune City). A coach of his stature tells you things that you will remember for life; so I am trying to implement the little things that I have picked up.
"But to play well, you need to work hard and that is what I am trying to do. Give my best in every game, every opportunity I get, " Jairu told IANS in an interview.
At present he is plying his trade for local football heavyweights East Bengal, for whom he has already scored three goals in the ongoing I - League.
Though Jairu believes his team can clinch the I - League this time around, he is well aware of stiff competition from heavyweights Bengaluru FC and defending champions Mohun Bagan.
East Bengal are currently second on the points table. They are on 17 points from eight matches, one point behind league leaders Mohun Bagan. Bengaluru are within striking distance of the top two with 15 points.
"Yes, we are one of the contenders. We are a good team and we are getting results. But you see, there is a lot of competition this year. It's neck - and - neck at the top of the table. Anyone one can win. Bengaluru, Mohun Bagan are very strong contenders too. And with just nine teams you cannot afford slip ups. "
The Sikkimese midfielder was spotted through the 'Search for more Bhaichungs' initiative and has gone on to play for teams like the Mumbai Tigers and former National Football League champions Salgaocar.
During the World Cup qualifiers last year, India coach Stephen Constantine handed him his international debut. He also shone in the maiden edition of the ISL.
Jairu impressed in his country's colours in the recently concluded SAFF Championship where India emerged as champions beating Afghanistan 2 - 1 in the final. Jairu worked tirelessly and outfoxed rival defences many a time with his skills.
"It was a great win. We really played like champions. It was nice that I could contribute for my team. I am honoured to have played with the likes of Sunil Chhetri whom I have grown up watching, " he said.
"You see, these are good signs for Indian football. It is growing and slowly the money is coming into the game. New players are coming in too, so all is good. "
Asked about East Bengal's rich vein of form in the season, Jairu said: "We are not thinking about the games too much, just focussing on the next job. "
"The coach (Biswajit Bhattacharya) knows all about Indian football. We try and follow whatever instructions he gives us. We are now gelling well as a team. "
East Bengal have four foreign recruits from three different countries this season. Asked if there were problems communicating, Jairu said: "No, not at all. We understand football, we don't need a language. Everyone knows which position to play in, that is what matters. "
Jairu was also reluctant to comment on the infrastructural difference between the ISL and the I - League, saying the latter is slowly improving.
"Obviously there is a difference. ISL facilities are much better but times are changing and I - League clubs are revamping there infrastructure also, " he said.
The medio, who took up football at the age of 12, said he has no plans of settling down now and wants to just concentrate on his footballing career.
"Are kahaan baandhna chahte ho humein (with whom do you want to tie me?) (laughs) (when asked about marriage) No plans of getting married any time soon. I just want to play football, " he quipped.
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at debdoot. d@ians. in)