Why Hero-of-the-League Roy Krishna is a champion even in defeat

Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 may have ended in disappointment for Roy Krishna but the Fijian can look back with pride in what was a solid individual campaign for him with ATK Mohun Bagan. After becoming Hero ISL champions with ATK FC in Hero ISL 2019-20, Krishna endured the heartache of losing a final as Mumbai City FC overcame ATK Mohun Bagan in last week’s final.

Krishna will undoubtedly be disappointed to have missed out on Indian club football’s most coveted prize, but he’ll do well to remind himself that it wasn’t all bad for him in Hero ISL 2020-21. The Fijian striker did very as an ATK Mohun Bagan spearhead in the final third. 

His ability to consistently find the back of net was a driving force behind the Mariners’ run to the semis. A clutch player, Krishna also scored some important late goals late for ATK Mohun Bagan. He top-scored for the Mariners with 14 goals – all of which came during the league stage. Krishna netted exactly half of his side’s goals in the league stage.

That said, Krishna’s game is so much more than just his goals and it would be unfair to label him just as an out-and-out striker. Whether it’s his hold-up play or ability to link up with his teammates in the final third, Krishna is capable of raising the level of his teammates around him. A tireless worker, he isn’t afraid to chase down lost causes or press from the front irrespective of whether it’s the first or final minute of the match.

Another facet of his game that often goes slightly under the radar is his heading ability. Not the tallest of strikers, on paper Krishna doesn’t appear to be much of a threat in the air. However, the Fijian will beg to differ and with good reason. He, in fact, scored a match-winning header in Hero ISL 2020-21 and was often seen leaping higher than much-taller defenders. He is also strong on the ball and isn’t easy to dispossess.

Capable of going past a few players with his guile and trickery, Krishna may not fit the mould of the typical targetman but in reality, he offers much more than a textbook number nine. Furthermore, he can hurt teams with both feet and has a decent left foot which helped him score quite a few times this season, including during the league’s first-ever Kolkata derby that saw him net with his weaker foot from outside the box.

However, what sets him apart from other quality talents in the league is perhaps his desire and hunger to continue trying even when he’s not having the best of matches. Krishna – like all players – doesn’t always score but it’s never for a lack of trying when it comes to the Fijian. His ability to make a game-changing contribution even on a bad day is what makes Krishna special, so much so that even ATK Mohun head coach Antonio Lopez Habas – who normally doesn’t speak glowingly about individuals – heaped praise on him.

"I think that Roy is the same important player as last season. In the first few matches, he could not perform his best as he was without competitive football for six months. Now for me, he is the best player in the league," Habas had said during the business end of the season.

And his ability to contribute even without scoring was best demonstrated during ATK Mohun Bagan’s semi-final and final encounters. Krishna didn’t get on the scoresheet in any of those games but provided the assists for all the goals that were scored in the Mariners’ last three matches of the season. He finished the campaign with eight assists to go with his 14 goals, making him the player with the most goal contributions in Hero ISL 2020-21.

Four of those assists came in crunch clashes, however, judging by his winning mentality, Krishna will wish he could have done more. At the same time, he can reflect on a solid season and know that he didn’t hold anything back on the pitch. Champion players only get stronger from failure and you can rest assured about that being the case with Krishna, who will be eager to return next season and get his hands on more silverware to go with the 2019-20 Hero ISL crown.


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