New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) Indian Super League’s best ever foreign import John Stiven Mendoza is now a step closer to his dream of playing for his country Colombia as the South American nation on Wednesday named the 27-year-old former Chennaiyin FC superstar in their 23-man squad for the upcoming international friendlies against Peru and Ecuador.
With the 2022 World Cup qualifiers starting in South America in March, Mendoza not only has the chance to make his senior international debut in the upcoming international break, but also stake a claim to be in coach Carlos Queiroz’s plans for the road to Qatar.
The national call-up comes on the back of Mendoza’s fantastic form for French Ligue 1 outfit Amiens with four goals in six starts this season and also winning the club’s player of the month accolade in October. Mendoza has represented his country at U-17 and U-20 levels and now has the opportunity to play for a national team that is placed in top ten of the FIFA Rankings just five years after making his debut in the ISL for Chennaiyin.
The news is a great advert for the ISL and Indian football overall as very rarely does a foreigner go on to play in bigger leagues after coming to India as an unknown. Recently ATK’s 26-year-old Irish midfielder Carl McHugh had pointed out how the ISL over the course of five seasons has emerged as a route for younger foreigners to improve their careers and Mendoza remains the benchmark.
Having signed for Chennaiyin as a 22-year-old unknown Colombian in the inaugural edition of the ISL, Mendoza impressed with his pace, skills and finishing. He scored four goals in seven starts as Chennaiyin comfortably reached the play-offs. But Mendoza suffered an injury in the league stage and his absence played a big role in Chennaiyin losing out in the semis despite topping the table in the league stage.
That cameo for Chennaiyin though earned Mendoza a big money move to Brazilian giants Corinthians. It was probably a move too big for Mendoza at that point as he struggled to become a regular at Corinthians. Chennaiyin remained interested in the Colombian and eventually got their man on a transfer deadline day loan move on August 31, 2015.
That transfer turned out well for all parties concerned as Mendoza scored 13 goals including two hat-tricks to help Chennaiyin secure their first ever ISL title while Corinthians were able to give their player much needed gametime and also showcase his talent and ability to a global market.
Mendoza bagged both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot in ISL 2015 and enhancing his reputation earned a loan move to Manchester City-owned New York City FC in the MLS to play under the coaching of Arsenal and France legend Patrick Vieira.
Following the loan spell in USA, Mendoza then had an 18-month stint at Bahia in the Brazilian top league before finally earning a move to Europe in January 2018 as Corinthians sold him to Amiens in France to give the Chennaiyin icon the chance to play in the same league as Neymar.
In the summer of 2019 there was possibility of moving away from France and Mendoza also had to deal with the tragedy of his brother getting murdered and himself being assaulted at gunpoint back in Colombia. However once the transfer window in Europe was shut, Mendoza’s commitment to Amiens was never questioned and he hit great form that eventually will give him an opportunity to share dressing room with 2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez.
Looking at Mendoza’s incredible career rise ever since his debut for Chennaiyin in 2014 in Goa, it can be argued that he is possibly the best ever foreigner to have played in India.