Prabir Das: Won the semi-final against Bengaluru because of Kolkata fans

Over the course of a stellar campaign in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) which culminated with ATK FC winning the final and lifting trophy, Prabir Das established himself as one of the best defenders in the league. Playing as a right wing-back under Antonio Lopez Habas, Prabir assisted the joint-most number of goals for a defender, including two in the second leg of the semi-final tie against Bengaluru FC. While recalling his semi-final heroics, he credited the massive home support in Kolkata for the win.

“They scored at the beginning of the match itself, so we knew that not only do we have to score; we have to prevent them from scoring as well. But we had the belief that we can do something because 50,000 people were supporting us. I would like to thank the fans of Kolkata who came to that match and supported us. Because of them, my team and I had such a good performance. We only won that match because of the supporters and that felt special,” Prabir told host Anant Tyagi in the latest edition of Let’s Football Live.

The marauding full-back suffered a season-ending injury before the 2018-19 campaign but came back stronger to produce his best performances yet in Hero ISL 2019-20. “Recovering from an injury is very tough. Coming back is the hardest, but I managed to do that. Working hard as a player is not a big thing. I had everyone’s love and blessings. Even if I get injured again, I have to come back. All this is a part of football,” Prabir explained.

He later admitted that although the semi-final victory and winning the Hero ISL trophy rank among his best memories, his favourite career moment so far was the opening fixture from last season against Kerala Blasters FC, which marked his return from injury. “I wish I could say it was the semi-final, but my favourite moment would be the match that I played after my injury. I never thought I will be able to play the full 90 minutes. The opening match against Kerala (Blasters) we lost, but it was a big moment for me because after a whole year I played a full 90 minutes, and although we lost the match, my performance was decent. This was my best moment apart from becoming the champions.”

Prabir has now been a part of four Hero ISL seasons but he had to overcome a lot of challenges during his early days, ranging from failed trials to untimely injuries and illness. However, when all seemed lost, the erstwhile Hero I-league outfit Mohun Bagan FC gave him an opportunity to prove himself and the 26-year-old thanked to the club for helping him rebuild his career. “I would like to thank Mohun Bagan for giving me an opportunity when no other team had faith in me. I reignited my career in the Calcutta Football League. I am very happy because my family and my fans are very happy,” he said.

When asked for his thoughts on ATK and Mohun Bagan’s recent merger, Prabir added: “I am very happy that two of India’s best football clubs have come together in the Hero ISL. Our battle is only for 90 minutes on the pitch, otherwise we are all friends off it. We are waiting for the season to commence.”  

Prabir also heaped praise on teammate and last season’s Hero ISL Emerging Player of the League, Sumit Rathi, who enjoyed a breakthrough campaign after being promoted to the first team. “Sumit is a very dedicated player. He is very serious and disciplined. He always listens to the seniors. He used to sleep early and woke up early for recovery because he knew that now that the coach has given him a chance, he should not let it slip. Therefore, he was successful,” he said.

“When he first came, he lacked a bit of confidence. But when the coach began to like his game, he took that in his stride and decided to do as the coach says. He knew that the coach liked him, so he had to perform well. That only helped him progress. I would like to say thanks to the coach as well, for giving a junior player the chance because it works well for the team as well as the club,” Prabir added.

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