Breaking records and defying odds: The rise of Hero ISL Golden Glove winner Vishal Kaith
ATK Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Vishal Kaith is a name that has been on everyone’s lips in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season. The Jindal Panther Golden Glove winner has been making waves with his incredible performances in the Green and Maroon colours and has quickly become a fan favourite, arguably making a huge shout for the best signing of the season.
No stranger to the Hero ISL, the 26-year-old’s rise to the top isn’t an ordinary feat. Having been part of FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC in the previous seasons, he showcased some quality performances that saw both sides making it to the semi-finals. Bettering himself through each passing season, Kaith made his way to Juan Ferrando’s ATK Mohun Bagan ahead of the 2022-23 season. From the first game until the last, the custodian’s exceptional saves, quick thinking, and excellent shot-stopping abilities have been extremely impressive and at times have been the difference between a win and a loss for the Kolkata side.
In a season where ATK Mohun Bagan conceded the second-least number of goals (19) – second only to Hyderabad FC (16) – Kaith has shaped and strengthened the defence from the goal line. Having played 2195 minutes across 24 games in the season, the shot-stopper has registered a record-breaking 12 clean sheets, averaging a clean sheet in every second game, and a whopping five clean sheets more than his counterparts.
His heroics in front of goal has seen the joyful crowd of Kolkata witness some mind-numbing saves. Having conceded 19 goals, second only to Hyderabad FC’s Gurmeet Singh (7), Kaith has unlocked a new dimension to his abilities under Juan Ferrando and his coaching staff. Rightfully so, he has started every single game for ATK Mohun Bagan.
KAITH-MANIA indeed! 💥👊@vishalkaith01's day just got sweeter as the @atkmohunbaganfc shot-stopper now holds the record for most (1️⃣2️⃣) clean sheets in a single #HeroISL Season! 👊👑#ATKMBHFC #HeroISLPlayoffs #LetsFootball #ATKMohunBagan #HyderabadFC pic.twitter.com/z4MfWTE79G— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) March 13, 2023
He made 67 saves and recorded a save percentage of 77.9%, which is the second highest amongst all goalkeepers (with a minimum of eight matches played), only behind Hyderabad FC’s Gurmeet Singh. Out of the 86 shots faced on target by the custodian, he shipped in just 19 goals which makes an average of only 0.79 goals per game in the season.
Replacing Amrinder Singh as ATKMB’s first choice goalkeeper was never an easy task but the Himachal Pradesh-born player never faltered when he picked up that seemingly poisoned chalice. Kaith had always shown great promise during his stint with Chennaiyin FC but since his arrival to the Kolkata-based club, he has effectively restrained those hasty movements and given way to sound decision-making.
While he might be one of the standout players for ATK Mohun Bagan throughout the season, Kaith endured a difficult journey to clinching the coveted award. Albeit his uncessant and consistent performances, the Mariners were losing their grip when it came to scoring. To further worsen the situation, Ferrando’s squad faced several injury blows that hampered their ambitions for the season.
Despite the shortcomings, Kaith stood tall and strong and became the cornerstone of not just the ATK Mohun Bagan defence but the team as a whole. Facing outright competition from some of the top goalkeepers of the nation in Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Phurba Lachenpa to name a few, the custodian had a point to prove and a difference to make. From high claims to punches and from acrobatic saves to penalty saves, Kaith’s done it all. Deservedly so, the Jindal Panther Golden Glove is a testament to his heroics, dedication, and talent.
While he was inches closer to his first-ever silverware while playing in the final against ATK FC in Chennaiyin FC colours in the 2019-20 season, the goalkeeper never got a hand in the triumph. Cut chase to 2022-23, it has been Kaith who has been the game-changer in the semi-final and in the final.
Saving a penalty is easier said than done but Kaith’s effortless saves make it look easy, so much that he did it twice to emerge victorious on both occasions. In the semi-final against Hyderabad FC, he outsmarted Javier Siverio by guessing his shot and diving the right way, earning a crucial save. Similarly in the final against Bengaluru FC, the goalkeeper guessed it right yet again as he dived to deny Bruno Ramires and gain a huge advantage.
An integral part of ATK Mohun Bagan, this is simply the beginning of better things for Vishal Kaith. Having developed by leaps and bounds, his coming-of-age performances are a stepping stone to further accomplishments and accolades. Having left his mark with the Golden Glove, he is on the pathway leading to excellence.