ATK's defensive midfielder Michael Regin has reached a zenith in his career graph at the age of 32 after winning the Indian Super League (ISL) last season.
Having won the I-League in the 2018-19 season with Chennai City FC, Regin ended up winning both of India's domestic leagues back-to-back. It was a satisfying moment for a player who has had to go through a lot of challenges, including not playing professional football during his peak years.
Regin is part of a crop of footballers from Tamil Nadu who were brought into national conscience by the emergence of Chennai City. Regin, his younger brother Michael Soosairaj, Chennaiyin FC midfielder Edwin Vanspaul and Odisha FC winger Nandhakumar Sekar were all given their chance to shine by Rohit Ramesh-owned Chennai City. Regin was quick to heap praise on them.
In fact, his excellent performances for Chennai City in the 2017-18 season saw Soosairaj being bought for good money by Jamshedpur FC who then sold him for a huge fee to ATK.
"Let it be me, Soosai, Nandha or Edwin, every player who came out of Chennai City have done well. If they were not there, there is no doubt we wouldn’t have reached anywhere. We played with them even before they were in the I-League. We won the CFA Senior Division title with them," Regin told Goal.
Regin details how Rohit Ramesh's insistence on promoting local talent when Chennai City gained entry to the I-League helped all of them. It is a policy that Chennai City and Rohit Ramesh have stuck to with unwavering belief. It has also brought them success with the I-League title coming their way in the 2018-19 season.
Despite the likes of Edwin and Regin leaving the club after 2018-19, Chennai City have continued to back young talent and it is an approach that Regin has heaped praises on.
"Rohit Sir called me when I was going for a Santosh Trophy camp (in 2017), he asked me to come and play for the team since they were going to the I-League. He told me he was looking to give chances to a lot of local players and promote them. I was not sure how it was possible but he has done it as he envisioned it.
"A lot of Tamil Nadu players have come out of Chennai City and even now the squad has primarily local talent. They continue to achieve good results. The performance has not gone down. They were a huge part in my life and I cannot forget them and Rohit sir," expressed Regin.
Rohit Ramesh himself was quick to point out that the club always had belief in Regin that he will come good despite his injury troubles. "I’m happy we had given him that platform! Despite him being injury prone, we stuck with him and believed he can reach the heights like his brother! Wishing him more success in the coming future," Rohit told Goal.
The ISL final this time around also pitted Regin against his former teammate Edwin Vanspaul who has had a breakthrough season with Chennaiyin FC where he excelled in midfield. Regin, who missed the majority of the season with injury, had cemented his place in the ATK midfield towards the business end of the season. Naturally, the final saw the two 'friends' clash, with Regin guilty of hacking down Edwin during one particular passage of play.
"Edwin, he’s like my brother. Yeah, there was a tackle on him. If I missed a ball, the coach would’ve killed me. So, I had to go for that ball. It was in the air, he also went for it. I mistimed it and ended up fouling Edwin out. I immediately apologised to him," said Regin.
Regin was quick to point out the importance of the Chennai Football Association (CFA) leagues which have traditionally played a huge role in giving opportunities to aspiring players from the state. Regin himself, Nandhakumar, Soosairaj, Edwin and countless others from the state have come through after excelling in the CFA leagues. However, the league did not take place from 2019 after a High Court ruling had declared the results of CFA election held in 2018 null and void.
"Chennai league is a first step for many local players. I played both second, first and then played senior division. It gives a lot of exposure to local players. I used to enjoy playing in that league. Nobody would have known me If I’d not played there. I got a job only because of playing there.
"I don't understand what is happening, but a lot of players are suffering. Everybody cannot play for Chennai City FC and come up. They cannot give a chance to every player. There needs to be the league in the city. It is such an important part for a Tamil Nadu player," reasoned Regin.