Going for glory: Arindam’s transfer to SC East Bengal is the opportunity he was eyeing for
Former ATK Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja kept ten clean sheets last season and won the Golden Glove. Ahead of the Hero ISL 2021-22 season, Arindam secured a move to SC East Bengal on a free transfer.
The 31-year-old goalkeeper made fifty-nine saves in the previous season, in what was his second stint at ATK Mohun Bagan. After having won his first Hero ISL trophy with the Mariners, Arindam gave credit to the team for coming together despite a renovated set-up on his two-year spell at ATKMB.
“It’s an amazing feeling, the process of training hard, winning games, especially because it was a new team, with a new coach, all the foreigners were new, and we gelled very well too. Overall, it’s been a great experience, it’s really special for me because that’s my first ISL trophy. Now I’m eager to win more trophies.”
The Hero ISL 2019-20 Final between ATK Mohun Bagan and Chennaiyin FC witnessed some magnificent goals as well as saves, with ATKMB clinching a 3-1 win. Speaking about the intensity and pressure of that game, Arindam had quite the story to tell.
“We had lost our home game against Chennai, when we went back to the dressing room, all the players were discussing that we need one more game against Chennai to finish the season, otherwise it makes no sense losing to them at home.”
“So, we finally got the chance to play Chennai in the finals, we were well prepared and had a clear mindset, though we conceded a goal in the 69th minute, we were in control of the game. And that’s what happened, eventually we won the final.”
Arindam won the Hero of the Match in the final alongside winning the Golden Glove that season. It was a close one between him and Mumbai City FC’s Amrinder Singh who made a total of 61 saves; however, Arindam had a better record at conceding a goal per 108.95 minutes to Amarinder's 100.
“If you were to ask me, I’d share the Man of the Match award with Javi [Javi Hernandez] because he scored some beautiful goals and had a very good match. It had to be the both of us for Man of the Match.”
Arindam went on to make it abundantly clear that he prioritises team awards over individuals given the nature of the sport.
“Personally, I’d choose the Champions trophy over the Golden Glove because as footballers we don’t work hard for individual awards, it’s a team game and that’s what we work hard for,” he said.
“When you work hard throughout the week, it bodes well for you, and it gets easy on a gameday. So, from outside it looks like I’m working hard and I’m mentally strong, but it’s just the work I put in on a daily basis. I take care of the minute details such as my food, hydration, and [proper] rest. It’s these minute details which help me to be competitive,” he added, about his mentality and on delivering consistent performances.
Having played for FC Pune City, Mumbai City FC, ATK in the ISL, the decision to join SC East Bengal, the arch-rivals of ATK Mohun Bagan, was not an easy one for Arindam, however, it was his family's emotional connect to East Bengal that pushed him to sign for SCEB
“I was a little confused. My father and grandparents are East Bengal supporters, so after talking to them, the emotional connection worked for me. They were happy and that’s what motivated me to play for East Bengal. In 16 years of my professional career, I never got the opportunity to play for East Bengal, after getting the opportunity, I couldn’t resist joining them.”
After finishing ninth in their first ever ISL season, SC East Bengal will try to establish themselves as a heavyweight this season and better their performance from last season.
“Our initial target would be to qualify for the semis and qualify for the finals thereafter. But since we’re a new team, we have to gain confidence and go game by game, building ourselves on the path to winning the trophy.”
“[Daniel] Cheema would be the biggest surprise in the ISL if he adapts to the league as he understands the game very well and is a skillful player,” Arindam stated on which East Bengal player might shine this season.
The adaptability of the players wasn’t just tested on the field but off the field as well with Covid protocols and a bio-bubble in place. “We enjoyed a lot being in the bubble last year as travel was restricted. Since we’re getting everything inside the hotel, we were never bothered about not getting to go out, so we had an enjoyable time with each other.”
Covid-19 also restricted the fans to come out in support of their favourite clubs in the stadiums. Arindam left a special message for the fans who are eagerly waiting for SCEB to rise up the ranks and see them finish on top.
“Just have a little patience [to the fans] because we’re a new team. I’m sure you understand that we’re working really hard. We will try and win all games and perform to our fullest.”
The Kolkata born keeper will look forward to keeping a clean sheet in his first game in the East Bengal colours, as they start their campaign against Jamshedpur FC on 21st November 2021 at the Tilak Maidan stadium.