Sydney to Bengaluru aboard the Paartalu Express

Erik Paartalu laughs as he speaks about the tender coconut drinking competition he has going on with his wife, Amy. "I win all the time," he says. "Kumar (the vendor) is a good guy," he adds.

It’s all too familiar now for Paartalu, this life in Bengaluru. It's been over two years since the Australian packed his bags for his great Indian adventure. Having chased the football around in seven countries - and three continents - he feels at home in Bengaluru.

"I am very settled (here). I have rented the same apartment for three years. I am spending my own money to live here and enjoy. I feel like I have some sense of entitlement to say things when they are appropriate. Living in India is so much easier than in some of the places I have lived," says the outspoken Australian.

But it would not be complete if the football didn't match match his ambitions. Now, in his third season with the Indian Super League champions Bengaluru FC, Paartalu has found a second wind in the latter stages of his career.

"I think when I played for Brisbane Roar between 2010-2013, that was a moment in my career where I wanted to hang on to that feeling of being successful and the environment of wanting to win all the time," he says of a time when he also broke into the national team.

"When you find a place like that you want to hang on to it. You don't care about money or anything, just keep that feeling going. I feel very similar here. The right DNA is here," he says.

After months of administrative turmoil, a cancelled tournament and a nearly six-month off season, the Australian is chomping at the bits to get back to action.

"It's been a really, really long off-season," admits Paartalu. "It's a pretty irregular situation for BFC because we are usually back early for the AFC Cup campaign. That's definitely helped us in the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on us. Hopefully it brings about a freshness in us."

With his ability to win second balls, put himself around, find the first pass and organise the team, Paartalu is key to the team’s balance, especially since the shift in approach since Carles Cuadrat took over the reigns from Albert Roca. Yes, the Blues can still pass the ball around with aplomb but there is also a street smartness to them. A willingness to fight and see off games, comfortable defending leads.

"It's different from when Roca was here but you can’t argue with the final product," points out the 33-year-old. "Last season I felt defensively, we won the season. That will be the key again because with the players that we have, you're always going to get some chances." 

This season however, will present its own challenges with the welcome addition of the AFC Cup campaign. "There's always unfinished business in Asia for this club," Paartalu admits.

Having lost the final he played in and missed out on the triumphant one, Paartalu too has unfinished business. One he tends to address, the challenge only made harder without the mercurial Miku. Nevertheless, Paartalu is quietly confident on the squad.

"I think the club has done a very good job attracting the right players. Last season, we probably had 13 players who could step in and do a very good job. This year we are going to have 16 to 18,"," he signs off.

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