West Bengal-born defender Hira Mondal caught everyone’s attention with his assured performances for SC East Bengal in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) last season.

The 25-year-old was among the top Indian defenders at SC East Bengal last season and was the shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for the red and gold brigade. He had the highest number of interceptions for a SC East Bengal player (29) and played 16 times for the Kolkata outfit in his debut season.

Mondal’s performances earned him a move to Bengaluru FC this summer and he will now be part of the Blues’ rejuvenated squad ahead of the upcoming Hero ISL season.

“Hira is a player who has consistently improved his game over the last few years, and is someone we had set our sights on for some time now. We are very happy to have him join our squad ahead of the new season. He had a fantastic year with SC East Bengal, and we are certain that he will play a big part in the team we are building - one that’s centred around young talent,” said Bengaluru FC CEO, Mandar Tamhane.

Capable of playing both as a central defender and as a left-back, Mondal will give new head coach Simon Grayson plenty of flexibility in defence.

As he looks to get to the next level in his development as a player next season, Mondal caught up with indiansuperleague.com for an exclusive interview and spoke about the new chapter in his life, chance to share the dressing room with Indian legend Sunil Chhetri, longer football season and more.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

Why did you choose to move to Bengaluru FC this season?

Bengaluru FC are a big club and the most successful club in India over the last ten years. A lot of players from this club play for the Indian national team. So, I thought that if I want to progress and achieve my goals, the atmosphere at Bengaluru FC is perfect for that.

It was a difficult decision for me as SC East Bengal are a big club too. I was a local player as well so it was a tough decision but I decided to move out of the city to make progress in my career.

Who was the biggest influence on your game in the Hero ISL last season?

I was helped a lot by my seniors in the team like Arindam Bhattacharja, Bikash Jairu, Balwant Singh and Raju Gaikwad. They used to guide me whenever I made any mistakes. The head coach helped me out a lot as well.

How quickly do you think you will be able to adapt with to surroundings at Bengaluru FC?

I will try and follow the coach’s instructions and when we practice together as a team, I’ll try and develop combinations with my teammates as it’s important to have understanding. I will try and adapt quickly as it will be good for me as well as the team.

How excited are you to share the dressing room with a legend like Sunil Chhetri? What do you think you will learn from him on and off field?

It is a dream of every Indian player to train and play with Sunil Chhetri. I have also dreamt of playing with him. I feel very pleased and fortunate to have got a chance to share the dressing room with him. He has played so many matches, scored so many goals and has such experience in the game that I have a lot to learn from him. I’m looking forward to start training and meeting him.

He is very disciplined off the pitch which is also a very important factor for a player. I want to know more about his diet and fitness regime as well.

How eager are you to start training with Prabir Das, do you think you can form a solid partnership together?

Prabir Das and I belong to the same place and I know him very well. He is also very experienced. Since we know each other well, I expect to have a strong bond with him on the pitch.

From this year, the club season will be longer than earlier season, what are your thoughts?

A longer football season is very important for a player as you get to play a lot of matches. It is also helpful for coaches as they can fully implement their thoughts and tactics in the team.

In a longer season, you also get time to recover if you suffer from an injury. So, a longer season is beneficial for everyone in the football ecosystem.

What's your take on India's success in Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers? What do you expect from the Indian team in the tournament next year?

India played very well in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. They played their own game and everyone gave their 100% and that’s why the team qualified for the Asian Cup.

The team is improving day by day. No one thought India would be able to hold Qatar to a draw. The AFC Asian Cup finals won’t be easy as there will be many top teams in the competition. Hopefully, the team will improve further and gain experience from the tournament.

What's your message to the Bengaluru FC youngsters who will be travelling to the UK to play in the Next Gen cup?

It’s a great opportunity for the BFC youth team to travel to UK. I’ll say that you must show your quality there. At the same time, you will get good experience by playing some very big teams. If you follow the coach’s instructions, you’ll get success. Even if the results don’ go your way, the experience that you will get is going to be invaluable as you will be playing against very top teams. So, go out their and give your best.

Despite the SC East Bengal's performances, you earned a lot of respect and love from fans. Before leaving for Bengaluru FC, what will be your message to them?

The SC East Bengal fans will always have a special place in my heart. Last season, a lot of fans used to message me as they couldn’t come to the stadium and support us. The fans motivated me a lot and I will never forget the love they showed me. I wish the club all the best.

What are your personal goals in the upcoming season?

I want to up the level of my performances from last season. In order to achieve my goals, I would need to work harder every day. I want the fans to be happy with my performance and they should feel that I tried to give my best. My aim is to maximise my potential and show that on the pitch.