It’s tough to take defeat when you’re in such good form: Jamshedpur FC’s Ritwik Das
With the Hero Super Cup drawing its curtains as Bengaluru FC and Odisha FC understand their fate in the final showdown on Tuesday, we are at the last knockings of the footballing season. Jamshedpur FC – who bowed out after a 2-0 loss against Bengaluru FC in the semi-finals – had a splendid group stage where the side notched a 100% win record but fell short of success in their tie against the Blues.
Forward Ritwik Das looks back on his season as a whole where he ended his campaign on a strong personal note. The 26-year-old had a slow start to the Hero Indian Super League 2022-23 (ISL) season with no goals in the first half of the season owing to an injury but since the turn of the year, Ritwik has been firing across all cylinders and fulfilling his personal ambitions. He was the top scorer for Jamshedpur FC in the Hero ISL with six goals, all of them coming in the second half of the season, with the attacker receiving his first National team call-up, reaping rewards of his hard work and resilience.
Aidy Boothroyd's men finished tenth in the Hero ISL campaign, an unexpected position after winning the League Shield in the previous season. The Men of Steel looked a different team in the Hero Super Cup, opening the campaign with a 5-3 comeback victory against FC Goa, followed by an emphatic 3-0 win against Hero ISL champions ATK Mohun Bagan, and to make it three out of three, the side came out victorious against Gokulam Kerala FC in a 3-2 win.
After becoming the only team to win all three matches in the group stages of the Hero Super Cup, Jamshedpur FC's winning juggernaut was halted by Bengaluru FC in the semi-final.
"After a difficult season in the Hero ISL, we started well in the Hero Super Cup - won all three games and topped the group. When you're in such good form and get defeated like this, it's tough to take," said Ritwik while speaking to the AIFF media.
The semi-final was an equal affair with both teams displaying the best of their abilities, and Ritwik was at the heart of things for Jamshedpur FC. However, the Blues came out on top with a strong second-half and goals from Jayesh Rane and Sunil Chhetri sealed the victory for Hero ISL finalists.
Snaps from our semi-final clash against Bengaluru FC last night 📸#BFCJFC #HeroSuperCup #JamKeKhelo pic.twitter.com/5WZLtwZuCh— Jamshedpur FC (@JamshedpurFC) April 22, 2023
The attacker bagged an assist in every group stage match, displaying his importance and playmaking skills for the Men of Steel. "(It’s) Hard luck that we missed some good scoring opportunities. The elimination is a tough one for me personally after such a good spell in the Hero Super Cup," Ritwik said.
"After winning the League Winners' Shield last year and qualifying for the Hero ISL semi-finals for the first time, we also had high expectations this time. But it was disappointing to miss out on the top six. But we're sure we will come back stronger next year," he added.
This year's Hero ISL saw attacking talents of the highest level with new players making a name for themselves and the veterans proving why they have been at the top of the game for so long. Ritwik – who was impressive under former head coach Owen Coyle last season – proved his mettle under the tactics and game style of Boothroyd this season.
He was the joint-third highest Indian goalscorer with six goals in 18 matches. "Playing in the Hero ISL against some of the best Indian and foreign players has helped me develop my game. I do make mistakes. I'm not perfect, and I'm always trying to learn," he stated.
Having been called up for the National camp back in May last year, the 26-year-old couldn't make his debut due to his injury. Following the culmination of the Hero ISL season, the big moment finally arrived for the attacker as he was named in the squad for the Hero Tri-Nation. Ritwik made a substitute appearance in the Blue Tigers’ 1-0 victory against Myanmar.
"It was amazing being there in Imphal with the support we received. The stadium was fully packed even before we reached there. I can never forget my India debut in Imphal," he said.
With the AFC Asian Cup in January followed by various National team tournaments, Ritwik would be keen to maintain his place in the Blue Tigers' set-up and the attacker isn't slowing down.
"I want to keep improving myself, prove myself, and get more game time and give my best to help India win every competition we play in," he concluded.