A team can have exceptional outfield players, but a title-winning side always requires the presence of a fearsome goalkeeper between the sticks.

Keepers aren’t just there to make stunning saves; they also bear the responsibility of directing the defensive structure and providing assurance to the rest of the team with their reliability. For a team like Mumbai City FC, goalkeepers must also contribute to building play from the back.

Phurba Lachenpa ticked all these boxes, reigning supreme in Mumbai City FC’s Indian Super League (ISL) Cup triumph and League run, where they fell short of retaining the Shield by a point. He was awarded the Golden Glove for the most number of clean sheets (9), adding to his title joy.

Also Read: Phurba Lachenpa bags ISL Golden Glove award

After losing the Shield to Mohun Bagan Super Giant on the final day in front of a jam-packed Salt Lake Stadium in mid-April, the Islanders got their opportunity to take sweet revenge against the same opponent in the same stadium in the Cup final. Despite trailing by a goal in the first half, the Islanders showcased their resilience to turn the tide in the second half and clinch the title.

In an interview with Revsportz, Lachenpa recalled the Cup final and discussed how he handled the intense pressure from the home supporters.

“Frankly speaking, it was no pressure for me. Growing up as a sport-loving kid, I have seen such huge numbers in the stands, and I have always wanted to play in front of such a huge crowd. So, for us, it’s always a motivation playing in front of such a crowd, and for me personally, it’s an added source of motivation. I want to prove myself in such an atmosphere. Whether it’s a home crowd or away crowd, for me it gives me the same motivation to prove myself. The Kolkata crowd was tremendous and it’s a good sign for Indian football that people came in such huge numbers. It was an added motivation for us in the final,” Lachenpa told Revsportz.

Coming from a sports-oriented family, getting involved in sports was not difficult for the keeper. The 26-year-old began his footballing journey with his local I-League side, Shillong Lajong FC and there was no looking back for him.

He shared insights about his decision to pursue football and revealed his biggest inspirations for a career in sports.

“I was born into a sports-loving family. My two brothers used to play football and cricket. I used to play cricket with them. They used to watch matches on TV, and I saw them and fell in love with cricket and football.

“My brothers were my inspiration. They used to win school tournaments and local tournaments and I wanted to do the same. They instilled a love of sports in me, and I chose football because there was not much scope for cricket in the Northeast. The credit for my sports career goes to my brothers,” he revealed.

The shot-stopper has been demonstrating an aggressive nature on the field, a quality he has cultivated over the years. He also reveals how he decided to become a goalkeeper and what sparked his passion for this specific role.

“Being a goalkeeper was a choice for me. When I saw Oliver Kahn play in the 2006 World Cup, and [footage of] the Champions League final where he saved three penalties, I just loved the aggression he showed on the pitch,” said Lachenpa.

After successful tenures with I-League sides Shillong Lajong FC and Real Kashmir FC, Lachenpa moved to Mumbai City FC during the 2020-21 season. However, with the likes of Amrinder Singh and Mohammad Nawaz ahead of him, he spent most of his time on the bench.

His breakthrough came in the ISL last season, where he played a crucial role in helping the Islanders clinch their second League Shield in unprecedented fashion. Lachenpa continued to make waves with his shot-stopping skills this season, despite the challenge of a mid-season change in head coach.

He discussed the changes Petr Kratky brought to the team, leading them to glory in his first season.

“In the City Group set-up, whoever comes wants to play possessional football. When Petr came, what he did good was he looked at what was the best he could do with the squad because he had less time to prepare. He gave us the freedom and made the team believe his philosophy. The change that he brought was the aggression. He wanted the team to press more and he saw the potential in the team. I think he has changed the mentality of the team and it showed in the results. We lost the Shield by a point and won the cup,” he stated.

When quizzed about his biggest dream in his career, he said, “I want to play 400-plus matches for Mumbai City FC.”

Now, after a successful domestic campaign, Lachenpa aims to replicate this success with the national team during the FIFA World Cup qualifiers next month.

“It always feels great to be a part of the national team camp. Last year also, I got the call-up for the camp. It’s always a great honour for me and my family and I try to improve every day. This opportunity gives me a chance to improve myself as a footballer and a person,” Lachenpa commented.