Decoding Game Plan

Decoding Game Plan

Ask any football enthusiast what their favourite playing position is and the answer will be a striker. But ask a professional the same question, and they will tell you that a midfielder is the most integral player in any setup. They are a hybrid between a defender and an attacker, capable of sitting well in both these roles. Strong midfielders, then, are the key to a team’s success.

Adil Khan, Jonathan Vila and Marko Stankovic are three of FC Pune City’s finest midfielders. One would think that their training regime and diet would be almost identical, given that they play very similar roles. As midfielders then, they need to be agile, fast and firm in order to stop the opposing defence from ruining chances that their forwards create to score a goal. However, when they hit the gym, their training regimes could not be any different.

An Austrian by birth, Marko Stankovic not only needs to face tough opposition but the heat and humidity of the subcontinent. “I have been practising and playing in minus nine degrees all my life. Now playing in 35 or 40 degrees has certainly not been easy. But I acclimatised.”

As a midfielder, Marko needs to carry a bit of bulk. His workout regime consists of weights and deadlifts mostly as it helps him in adding muscle. “I like to train heavily and exhaust myself. If I can manage to train hard in the gym, then for sure, I can play hard on the field.” Apart from weights, he also likes to run. “In India, I prefer using a jogging machine instead of running in the open.” 

Surprisingly, unlike most athletes, Marko doesn’t believe much in diets. “I do not follow my diet strictly. I believe in just working calories off. I enjoy what I eat. Jonathan is a bit lazy, does not like to work out at all, and so compensates with his diet,” says Marko, laughing. Jonathan Vila, a Spaniard and one of Marko’s closest friends, seems like the life of any party. Although he does not speak English, he jokes around, makes funny faces and does everything he can to amuse his teammates, who Marko and Jonathan, belief have become family. 

“He’s right you know. I don’t like working out. I prefer to just chill and have the rest of my boys do all the hard work,” says Jonathan, making the entire squad burst into laughter. Thinly built, and light on his feet, Jonathan does not look like your typical midfielder. “I have a fast metabolism. That’s why I need to eat right and eat regularly just to maintain my fitness,” says Jonathan. “I normally have a high protein diet and some good carbohydrates,” continues Jonathan. “But, just like any other athlete I have to work out as well, and therefore, I, too, hit the gym with these guys. But, I do not have a set regime or anything like that. As you grow old, you know what your body needs in order to deliver what you demand of it. It adjusts itself accordingly.”

Adil Ahmed Khan is a defensive midfielder. For people who follow Indian football, he is a familiar face, having played for some of the best teams of the country (read Mohun Bagan and Churchill Brothers). Before sitting down for the interview, we asked him how does he respond to pundits when they say that Indian players aren’t as fit as their European counterparts. “I believe that this perception is not correct. You are as strong as your body and mind let you be. I believe that you can be as fit as you want.”

Adil loves swimming and working out at the gym. “I also follow my diet religiously, and like to eat clean.” He has a holistic approach when working out. I focus on everything: my lower body, upper body and core strength,” says Adil. During the off-season, he, like the rest of the players goes on a diet that consists mostly of vegetables and proteins as they don’t burn many calories. “However, when with the team, I increase my calorie intake.” 

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