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I never thought that I will be picked by FC Pune City- Sarthak Golui

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The young defender spoke about his first season in the ISL, his introduction to football and much more.

Football in India is still in its developmental stage. The leagues have become more competitive and new teams are writing their part of the story in the epic road to glory for Asia's 'sleeping giant. The growth and popularity of football has also introduced grassroots development programmes, where teams help young aspirants to follow their dreams through thick and thin.

Similarly, a youngster from Kolkata made the headlines recently as he got called up for the Indian national team in their last AFC Asian Cup qualifier against the Kyrgyz Republic. His journey from Mohun Bagan's reserve bench to FC Pune City's starting XI and from there to the national call-up has been nothing less than a fairy-tale. Fate like this is achieved by hard work and defender Sarthak Golui is one of them. He was a crucial part of Ranko Popovic's side as they reached the playoffs for the first time in ISL history.

Khel Now's correspondent Neelam Sharma had the opportunity to catch-up with the youngster as he spoke about his experience in the cash-rich league. Excerpts

Q1. Can you tell us how you were introduced to the sport?

A- My inspiration is my father, he was also a footballer. He would take me to the ground regularly where we played football. I was a small kid at that time and from that moment I felt the love for the sport.

At just 20-years-old Golui made his mark on the league

Q2. When did you start considering football as a career?

A- I was 14 or 15 and at that time I never thought of taking up football as a profession. But when I went to the Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy, there was a U-15 trial camp for Bengal and I got picked for the team. After the tournament, I was also selected in the U-16 national team. Then the thought came to my mind that maybe this can be my profession.

Q3. You're a graduate of the AIFF Elite Academy, Tell us about your experience there.

A- Yes, I AM grateful that I got the chance when I first went to play for the U-16s Colin Toal was the coach at that time. He nurtured the youngsters and I was under him for five years till the U-19 academy. He developed me as a player. He is a great coach for all the young players and an even better human being. He will always be my coach and he is definitely the best coach I have worked with. My father and Colin Toal have great contribution in making me what I am today.

Q4. The youngsters who have graduated from the AIFF Elite Academy, some of them got the chance to play for the Indian Arrows side in the I-league. How do you think it will help them in their development?

A- Yes, it is a great initiative from the AIFF and the players will benefit very much in their development. In our time we didn't get the chance as at that time the Pailan Arrows were not there and hence we had to join professional teams directly.

A youth setup like this helps the player a lot mentally and physically. The transition from a youth training camp and a professional team is very tough and a setup like the Indian Arrows would have been nice for me and others as well. It would've helped me develop more as a player.

Q5. You have donned the Blue jersey for various age groups such as U-16, U-19, U-23 and now finally the senior team call-up. Tell us how did things turn out?

A- During my days at Mohun Bagan I got a call-up for the U-23 camp in Delhi at the Ambedkar Stadium. Our senior national team coach, Stephen Constantine was there and I got selected for the U-23 team for the U-23 AFC Asian Championship Qualifiers in Qatar. He followed my proceedings closely and he thought I am ready for the senior team, so I got picked up. Now it's my turn to prove him right and keep his faith.

Q6. Tell us about your experience in your debut season in the ISL?

A- It has been a great season, personally. I am delighted with the game-time the coach has offered me. He believed in me and I delivered on the field and that's what makes me happy. Honestly, I never thought that I will be picked by FC Pune City for the ISL. I was getting ready for the upcoming I-league with Mohun Bagan. Anyways, they had belief in me that's why they picked me and I was happy that I could perform to their expectations.

Q7. FC Pune City has a star-studded lineup, with the likes of Marcelinho, Emiliano Alfaro, Rafa Lopez and so on. So, how much do you and the other youngsters get to learn from them?

A- It has really been an honour to share the dressing room with the foreigners who have achieved so much. Not only me, they help all the youngsters including Ashique (Kuruniyan), Isaac (Vanmalsawma), Sahil (Panwar) and Rohit (Kumar). They have great techniques and their little tips help us a lot to grow as players. Alfaro has even played for the Uruguay national team and Rafa (Lopez) was captain of Spanish club Getafe. So it's really a great experience learning from the star players.

Sarthak scored his first goal in the ISL against Bengaluru FC

Q8. You have played under different coaches, so how different is Ranko Popovic to the others?

A- I have played under coaches like Sanjoy Sen, Stephen Constantine and Ranko Popovic. Their playing style is different but thoughts are more or less similar. Sanjoy sir is more of a calm and composed man. He talks in the dressing room and remains calm on the touchline. Whereas Popovic has a more aggressive nature. The passion he wants in his players is visible in his eyes. Speaking about Stephen Sir, he is very passionate and wants his players to give 100% each time whether be it in training sessions or in real match scenarios. He wants full commitment from his players.

Q9. You have played for Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan. How was your experience there?

A- It was a great experience playing for one of India's biggest clubs. I was very satisfied that they believed in my capabilities. Although, I did not play in a (Kolkata) Derby match, the atmosphere was electric. They are a great club with a great fan-base.


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Q10. Thoughts on the Orange Army and any message for them?

A- They have been a great source of motivation for the club. they cheered for us even in away matches in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Goa and so on. Whatever the result was they had our back and always supported us with full hearts.

Q11. According to you who is the best player in your position?

A- Originally, I am a centre-back. so, I feel Sergio Ramos is a great defender. I am also a big fan of Real Madrid

Q12 Which is the one area you think you are good at and which one needs most improvement?

A- I am playing as a right-back now so my one-on-one defending needs a lot of improvement. The strength of my game I would say is reading the game closely and always being alert to the danger.

Q13. Indian football's development is picking up pace. What according to you what has been the biggest improvement in the sport?

A- Yes, football in our country is definitely growing and as the leagues, the ISL and the I-league are running simultaneously more players are getting chances to play. The players are getting more match-time and that time on the pitch is improving them with the ball. The gameplay has improved and matches have been more eye-catching in comparison to the past.

Published: Thu Mar 15, 2018 04:27 PM IST

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