An adda with ATK footballers

The footballers say they're enjoying being trained by Steve Coppell

By Ravjit Singh
  • Published 23.10.18, 10:25 PM
  • Updated 23.10.18, 10:25 PM
  • 3 mins read
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(L-R) Avilash Paul, Ankit Mukherjee, Debjit Majumder, Arindam Bhattacharja, Arnab Mondal and Sk. Faiaz at Ecospace. Picture: Arnab Mondal

Bengalis love their adda and football. And when a bunch of Bengali footballers come together for an adda, it’s always on the ball. t2 caught up with the Bengali contingent of ATK players at Ecospace, New Town.

We are almost nearing a month of ISL. What are your expectations from this season?

Arnab Mondal, defender: We’re expecting a great season and the cup. Since this is my fourth season with ATK, I’m working hard to emulate the success I achieved with the team in 2014 and 2016.

Arindam Bhattacharja, goalkeeper: This is my fifth year in the ISL and I haven’t won the trophy yet. I’m expecting a great year, here, at ATK, and hope that we lift the trophy!

Ankit Mukherjee, defender: This is my first season of playing in the ISL, so naturally, I’m a bit nervous. But I’m eager to play and give my best, nonetheless.

Avilash Paul, goalkeeper: This is my first season at ISL after spending four years in I-League. I am really excited to be a part of ATK and the ISL.

You were away for matches during Durga Puja…

Arindam: Of course, it’s unfortunate and heartbreaking that we were not here during the Puja, but we’ll be here for Diwali and Kali Puja, so we’re really excited to see the foreign players experience it here, in Calcutta.

Have you introduced them to the city?

Arindam: Almost all of them are eager to be introduced to the local culture and learn Bengali. Gerson (Vieira), from Brazil, has already picked up quite a few Bengali phrases and is somewhat fluent in Hindi too as he was in Mumbai City FC for the last two seasons.

Sk. Faiaz, midfielder: Just as Arindam said, they are eager to learn about the local culture and even try and interact with us in Hindi and Bengali. We’ve planned to take them around the city.

Steve Coppell is ATK’s new head coach this season. How has your interaction been with him?

Arnab: We’re really fortunate to have got an opportunity to play under the guidance of such an experienced player. We all try to take away as much as we can from the experience he brings to the team.

Debjit Majumder, goalkeeper: Just as Arnabda said, we all try to imbibe his teachings. In his very first season in ISL back in 2016, he coached Kerala (Blasters FC) from finishing at the bottom (in 2015) to securing a spot in the finals. We’re hopeful that his magic continues in ATK too.

Arindam: He’s worked with some of the best players and goalkeepers in Europe and so as a goalkeeper, I’m trying to take in whatever I can. Off the field, he’s a gem of a person and has been responsible for the optimistic outlook of the team.

Ankit: Being coached by a Worldcupper in the very first season is something I will always cherish. Since it’s my first season here, it’s going to be a continuous learning process for me and he makes sure the learning curve for me is not steep.

Who’s the most fun person in the locker room?

Arnabda! (In unison. Arnab laughs)

What are your hobbies other than football?

Arnab: A complete sports buff, I like catching up on other sports. I play cricket in my para every once in a while too.

Debjit: I love watching movies.

Arindam: I listen to music all the time — at home, training…. I recently bought the new PlayStation 4, so currently hooked to gaming too.

Ankit: You would usually find me chilling at home with my family or bingeing on TV shows.

Sk. Faiaz: I like playing cricket.

Avilash: I’m often homesick and I love hanging out with my para friends for evening addas and spend a lazy weekend with my family.

What would you have been if not a footballer?

Arnab: I don’t know. Actually, now when I think of it, I always wanted to play football. (Laughs) I played a lot of sports as a child, so I knew I would be a sportsperson. But when I started playing football, I knew this is what I would be doing for the rest of my life.

Arindam: My grandfather was in the air force, so I always thought of joining the air force or the army until football came along.

Ankit: My father was in the army so if not a footballer, then definitely a soldier.

Sk. Faiaz: I was pretty good in studies and always wanted to be an engineer but when I started playing football in school, I wasted no time in reconsidering my options.

Avilash: I too was pretty sure I’d be a sportsperson. Football came along and I have stuck to it.

What would be your tips for all the aspiring footballers?

Arindam: Discipline. Without discipline, it’s impossible to achieve anything.

Arnab: For me, it will be dedication along with discipline. Without dedication, even the most gifted player can waste away his talent.

Avilash: A good footballer is someone who has a combination of hard work, dedication and perseverance.