Difficult to remain mentally strong for a reserve goalkeeper: Bengaluru FC’s Lara Sharma

Bengaluru FC star Lara Sharma highlighted the reservations of being a second-choice goalkeeper in a squad throughout the season, especially keeping the mental state in order. Following a long wait, the custodian finally made his ISL debut earlier this year against Chennaiyin FC in a 3-0 win.

It all started when Lara was just 10 years old, following the footsteps of his father who was also a footballer. However, it was after drawing some special inspiration from current Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper Pawan Kumar that he wore the gloves for a career option.

“In my village, I have my brother, Pawan Kumar. He was with Bengaluru FC earlier but now plays at Jamshedpur. When I was 12 years old, he used to come to our local academy and we used to train with him,” said Sharma, during an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.

“So growing up, I liked to watch him. He also told me that I had a good height and could become a good goalkeeper. He was my inspiration when I was a kid.”

It was in 2015 when he attended a trial at the Tata Football Academy, thus flagging off his professional career. Sharma was inducted into the Indian Arrows setup two years later for the 2017-18 I-League, but warmed the bench throughout the season.

However, things went uphill after a move to ATK, where he featured for the reserves in the second division I-League. Sharma played quite a few matches before he was deported to Bengaluru FC. The Hero ISL 2020-21 could have well been his breakthrough season, but with the towering figure of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the ranks, the wait was longer.

Finally, Sharma was in action for the Bengaluru FC reserves team in the 2021 Durand Cup and was omnipresent till their semi-final exit. Midway through the Hero ISL 2021-22, Gurpreet’s health deteriorated, providing the opportunity for Lara Sharma to make his debut in the top-tier competition.

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The gloveman kept a clean sheet in his first game against Chennaiyin FC and was also between the sticks for the Blues’ remaining matches. Overall, in five games, Sharma kept two clean sheets and made 20 saves, including a Hero of the Match award in their tie against SC East Bengal. It was enough for the 23-year old to hog the limelight, but the wait in the dugout prior to it was not a favourable one.

“Yes, it’s really difficult (the wait as a reserve goalkeeper). Especially, when you’re inside a bio-bubble, it’s very difficult to stay well mentally. If you’re not playing it becomes even more difficult because you don’t have many people to share your thoughts with. You’re mostly in your own room,” stated the Bengaluru FC goalkeeper.

“At least when you’re playing, it feels better. You have your family and friends watching you play. When you’re in the reserve, you usually go for the training then come back to the room. It’s very quiet.”

“As a second goalkeeper, we have to stay patient. During the preseason I was playing every game and the seniors told me that although Gurpreet bhai is playing, I should be ready to take the chance whenever it comes. The head coach and goalkeeping coach also asked me to be patient.”

Despite the quantum leap, Sharma is craving for greater game time, for which he needs to push himself even further. Off-seasons can often break the momentum, but the goalkeeper is trying every possible way to keep himself in shape in an attempt to outshine his previous exploits in the next term.

“Now, I have two or three months off but I’m working out in the gym, training hard to keep myself fit. I want to play more. It's quite simple, you know, everyone wants to play. So I’m pushing myself like I used to even five, six years back. Doing the same thing. In the coming season, I’ll give my everything to BFC. Hopefully, the results will be better and we will get into the playoffs and even become champions,” said Sharma.

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