Experience in Kolkata will remain with me forever: Hyderabad FC’s Nikhil Poojary

Nikhil Poojary is not new to the Indian football circuit or to the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), but being bred in a cricket-obsessed city (Mumbai) made it difficult to establish himself in a different sport altogether. It was only when he had an overdose of cricket that his focus shifted to the less travelled path in India - football. Recalling his formative years, the winger instantly stated how his love for the ‘beautiful game’ helped him bypass the normal trend.

“Yes, cricket is huge in Mumbai, not just in Mumbai but across the country. Just like any other kid in India, I loved playing cricket too. But we had a football curriculum in our school, so my interest started drifting towards football. I knew it was football for me once I fell in love with the ‘beautiful game’,” stated Nikhil Poojary, during an interview with Sportskeeda.

The western metropolis provided a launchpad for the budding talent, and he engaged in small stints at Ryan FC and Mumbai FC. But it was when he moved to Kolkata - the hub of Indian football, that he stepped up and embarked on the journey as a professional.

Poojary made his debut for East Bengal in 2016. 16 matches across two years in the setup might not look very encouraging but the experience gained during the stay helped him evolve at every possible juncture.

“Playing for the ‘big two’ (East Bengal and Mohun Bagan) in Kolkata is an experience in itself. I was very young when I moved to East Bengal and the experience will always stay with me. It helped me in many ways and it will always help me in good stead,” added the attacking footballer.

It was also during his stay at the Kolkata-based club that he earned a national call-up and made his debut for the Blue Tigers against Mauritius. FC Pune City then roped Poojary for the 2018-19 season of the Hero ISL and there was no looking back since, with his graph incessantly climbing.

Hyderabad FC also brought him on board during their inaugural season, with the partnership growing stronger by the day. Having already made 38 appearances for the club, Poojary is a vital member of Manolo Marquez’s squad as Hyderabad FC aim to lift their maiden Hero ISL title this season. The footballer also stressed on how his stint with his current side is turning out to be a game changer.

"It has been a great learning experience (at Hyderabad FC) – one which has not only helped me evolve as a footballer but also as a person. Yes, as a footballer, it has been a pleasure to work with some of the best coaches here. Coach Manolo, for example, has helped all of us here in getting to the next level. I am really pleased to be here and working with all the staff and the teammates," stated Poojary.

Hyderabad FC is now at the 3rd spot in the league table, with 17 points from 11 matches, which includes four wins and five draws. The ISL side will be up against SC East Bengal in their next encounter, on January 24. A win on Monday evening will enhance their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals.

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