Golui sheds light on why he had to leave Mumbai City FC and why he chose SC East Bengal

Sarthak Golui has proved his talent at such a young age. Come to think of it, at 23, he has already featured in four Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) seasons besides representing the national team. After serving FC Pune City and Mumbai City FC with distinction, the defender joined SC East Bengal during the January transfer window of the 2020-21 campaign and earned unequivocal praise from head coach Robbie Fowler as well as assistant coach Tony Grant for his performances there. Golui featured in five games for the Red and Gold Brigade after joining them from Mumbai City FC, and even scored a goal against NorthEast United FC. In an exclusive interview with indiansuperleague.com, Golui discussed the 2020-21 season at length as well as some little-known aspects of his footballing journey. Here are some excerpts from the interview.     

How are you keeping yourself fit in these terrible times?

I used to practise in former footballer Bastab Roy’s camp. But now it’s closed temporarily because of this Covid-19 situation. Nowadays, in the early morning, I usually go for practice alone or with one of my friends at a ground near my residence. Then go for training with Rudra Roy, renowned athletics coach Kuntal Roy’s son. He has set up a good facility for training in his Athletics Coaching Camp in Sodepur, 25-30 minutes away from my place. I must keep myself fit in this terrible situation. So, this is all I can do now to keep myself going.

Your Hero ISL debut was in 2017-18 for FC Pune City. How did that happen?

I got the call from FC Pune City after the AFC Cup U-20. One of their coaches Pradhyum [Reddy] sir had been watching me since my U-16 days. So, he called me up and asked me to join their squad. I didn’t want to let the opportunity go. Because the Hero ISL was a big thing for me. Then I was with Mohun Bagan AC. Played two matches for them in the Hero I-League. In the first season, I was on loan, then in the next season, FC Pune City signed me up as their own player.

After FC Pune City, you joined Mumbai City FC and then one of the big and famous clubs of your state, SC East Bengal in your fourth Hero ISL season. You are just one match away from the milestone of 50 matches in the Hero ISL. What types of developments have you noticed in the league in these four seasons?

To be honest, a lot. In terms of professionalism, money, infrastructure for our preparations, facilities — in every aspect the Hero ISL is much ahead. I don’t mean to say that there was no facility or development in the Hero I-League. There was. But I must say, the Hero ISL is many steps ahead than others. The way foreign coaches and their support staff prepare footballers for matches, we never experienced that before. Now, we have the opportunity to work with coaches and support staff, who have experience of working in European football. We are playing, interacting with players, who have played for world-renowned clubs. We are learning a lot from them in practice and matches. Something we never learnt before the Hero ISL. Indian young stars, like me, get immense help for our development from this league.

When I started playing for Pune City FC, players like Marcos Tebar, Marcelo Pereira, now one of the Hero ISL legends, Emiliano Alfaro were there. Sharing the dressing room, playing and preparing with them are unforgettable experiences for me. I was fortunate enough to play against some legendary players like Ferran Corominas and Miku. I can never forget them.

You established yourself as one of the successful defenders for Mumbai City FC in the 2019-20 season. But what made you think about switching in the middle of next season?

I agree that 2019-20 was the best season of my football career till now. But when [Sergio] Lobera sir took charge of the Mumbai City FC team and he brought his support staff to the club, everything changed. Lobera sir’s football philosophy was completely different, where I, perhaps, was not a good fit. The way he wanted to use the players may not have matched my style of play. I tried my best to adopt his style. But despite all my efforts, I couldn’t find myself in his scheme of things. I got a chance to get onto the pitch in only four matches. That’s why I thought about switching over to another club in January to get more game time. When I discussed this with the coach, he took it nicely and said that he also wants me to get more time on the field and if I can get an opportunity, I should grab it. At that time, I had proposals from a few clubs including SC East Bengal and I chose the club from my own state because of their history and tradition.

When you first took the field for the Red and Gold Brigade in February, they were going through a rough ride. Before the first match, what did Robbie Fowler tell you?

Nothing specific at the beginning. I knew every Indian player there. Few Bengalis were there too. So, it was easy for me to adapt. Coach let me play matches regularly. Robbie sir supported me a lot. He motivated me to give my best on the field. The way he wanted me to play, I did exactly that. It was close to my style of play. So, everything became comfortable for me. I think I was fortunate enough to understand Robbie sir’s football philosophy. That’s why he depended on me and I got an opportunity in every match since I first took the field for SC East Bengal.

After you and Raju Gaekwad joined them, SC East Bengal’s defence became more organised and stronger. Is it because of your good understanding with Daniel Fox and Scott Neville? Or is it because of your own skills?

Individual skill is not enough for success in a sport like football. Though, a brilliant goal from a striker can bring a win. But some people always have roles behind that awesome goal. Fox and Neville have immense experience in football. Fox used to play in the EPL. I am nothing, if you compare with them. I am still a student of football. I have learnt a lot from them. Raju bhai motivates me a lot. In fact, to get better results, we [all the defenders] used to motivate each other, whenever required.

You conceded 11 goals in the last three matches. What was the reason? Lack of motivation?

Not really. The result in the last match [loss by 5-6 against Odisha FC] was absolutely stunning for us. Personally, I couldn’t find any reason for that. Against NorthEast United FC, it was my terrible mistake [own goal] which cost us three points. Though later, I scored a goal. But I can’t claim any credit for that. Because it’s my job to help the team. But we didn’t play like a loser in that match. After my mistake, they went ahead [2-0] and that was disappointing for the team. Later we all tried our best to equalise but could manage only one.

The derby is all about mind games. You have to be mentally strong enough to get success in this particular match. Losing the derby by 1-3 [against ATK Mohun Bagan, second Kolkata derby of the season] was truly disappointing. But it didn’t have any impact on our last two matches. We didn’t lose our motivation at all. In the last match, we were ahead at the interval and we discussed finishing the league on a positive note. But some mistakes must have been committed, which I can’t talk about. It’s up to the coaches. They can tell you better about this. As a defender I can’t deny my role in those goals. But no individual is fully responsible for any of those goals. That’s all I can tell you on this.

You have faced Roy Krishna and David Williams many times and have watched Bright Enobakhare closely. How will you rank them as forwards?

It’s not possible to rank them as one, two or three. Because they have different features and qualities. Roy is hardworking, he has this never-say-die attitude. Till the last second of the match, he gives his best. He is always desperate to convert a 50-50 chance into a goal. Bright [another January signing] is technically sound. With the ball, he is irresistible, faster. David Williams too is dangerous with the ball. His shooting, crossing and heading is great. Everyone has his own special feature. Therefore, you can’t compare or rank them. But Roy and Williams are last season’s finalists. You must appreciate their effort. And if anybody says that SC East Bengal could have done better if they had got Bright on board earlier, you can’t oppose him.

In a chat with Hero ISL earlier, you said Mahesh Gawli and Deepak Mondal are your idols…

Yes, of course. Mahesh bhai helped me a lot when I was U-19 [at the AIFF Elite Academy]. I was going through a bad patch and asked him for help. We knew each other since my U-16 days and had regular conversations. At that bad time, Mahesh bhai motivated me a lot and I came out of that, mainly because of him. In my childhood, I admired Deepak-da and his performances. Both are my favorite Indian defenders. They taught me how much composed a defender should be. In world football, John Terry is my favorite. I watch Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta’s videos regularly and try to learn some things from their performances as well.

Finally, we would like to know about your father’s influence on your football career. We have heard that you have become a footballer because of him. As you have played for Kolkata’s biggest clubs and the Indian team, how happy is he now? And what’s going to be your best gift for him?

He is happy. But never reveals his happiness to me. That’s my father. Still, he finds out my faults and tries to teach me how to rectify that either over the phone or in person. Now, my target is to be a regular feature in the senior Indian team and that is going to be the best gift for my father.

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