The ace defender also shared his thoughts on Sandesh Jhingan joining ATK Mohun Bagan…
Pritam Kotal was one of the standout performers for ATK in their title-winning campaign under coach Antonio Habas in 2019-20 season. He was an indispensable member who hardly put a step wrong in defence and clocked every minute of the season.
In the pre-season, the Spanish manager tweaked his position a bit and from a traditional right-back, he was asked to slot in a right-centre-back position in a three-man backline. He had no qualms in settling down to his new role and his performances on the pitch did not reflect that he was playing in a rather unusual position.
After overcoming that challenge with flying colours, this season has thrown up a new adversary in the form of Coronavirus pandemic. Kotal agrees that a curtailed pre-season has dented the team’s preparations and staying inside a bio-bubble has been complicated.
- Europe’s most in-form player? Arsenal-linked Szoboszlai on a path towards greatness
- Pure rubbish: Low under pressure after Germany’s shocking loss in Spain
- Anthony Elanga: Man Utd’s teenage wing wizard aiming to follow in Greenwood’s footsteps
- Farewell Mascherano: Alongside Messi, Argentina’s most successful modern player
“This season will definitely be a bit more difficult and different from other seasons. We have been at home for the past six-to-eight months. Moreover, we have got less time to prepare. Yet, I think this season will test us mentally more than physically. We have to be mentally stronger. We are strictly adhering to the guidelines. We have not played any friendly this season. Practising inside the bubble is a difficult task. But we are adapting to it,” stated the defender to Goal.
Goal 50 Revealed: The best 50 players in the world
Staying in a bubble might be a challenge but Kotal has good company in the team as his national team compatriot Sandesh Jhingan has joined the squad. His friendship with Jhingan goes back a long way as the duo first shared the dressing room during their U19 days in national colours.
“We have a pretty good understanding with each other. We play for the national team as well. We communicate very well which is very important while playing in defence. We learn a lot from each other. His joining will definitely add more value to our team.”
The Uttarpara-born defender has won the coveted Indian Super League (ISL) title twice and now wants to take a step further and focus on Asia. This is in line with the vision of principal owner Sanjeev Goenka who did not mince words while expressing his desire to do well in the continent.
The owner has flexed his financial muscles once again to only hold on to the core players of the previous campaign but has spent wisely on Indian stars like Jhingan, Manvir Singh and Subhasish Bose to reinforce the domestic contingent, given that seven Indian players will have to take the pitch in any AFC competition.
“I want to win the league stage and qualify for the AFC Champions League. It will be a different experience to play in ACL. Our primary target is to do well in Asia. But we will be going match-by-match and not think about the ultimate goal. The next match is against Kerala Blasters and we need to win it,” said Kotal with determination.
One must note that no team has successfully defended the ISL title. And Kotal’s ambition is to win as many trophies as possible in his career so that when he hangs up his boots, he can boast of a cabinet full of silverware.
“We always want to win. Even in practice matches during training, we compete to win. We want to inculcate a winning habit. As players, you have to win trophies. After playing for 10-15 years, I want to have a cabinet with lots of trophies. If you don’t win as a team then everything goes to waste. So this is no pressure. I think we have the team to win everything. The trophy itself is a motivation and not pressure.”
Bagan definitely have the ingredients to lift the trophy at the end of the season. For that Kotal must ensure that he puts his best foot forward and continues his rich vein of form from last season.