Poojary: Hero ISL has brought with it a structure to Indian football that is sustainable

Nikhil Poojary is one of the most important players in the Hyderabad FC set-up having played 28 games for them in the last two seasons of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL).

In the 2020-21 edition, the versatile midfielder featured in 10 games and played 604 minutes in all for Manuel Marquez’s team as they narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth in what was just their second season in the league.

The last season saw 11 teams participate in the league and as many as 115 matches fought tooth and nail. Since its inception in 2014, the Hero ISL has come a long way and is now considered an El Dorado of opportunities for young as well as seasoned footballers the world over. 

Poojary, who made his Hero ISL debut in FC Pune City colours in 2018-19, acknowledges that the high-profile league has indeed given wings to Indian football.

“The Hero ISL has had a tremendous impact on Indian football. The reason I say that is now we have top grounds, facilities and great coaches. It has brought with it a structure to Indian football that is sustainable and will have a positive impact on the long-term future of the sport in the country,” he told freepressjournal.in in an interview recently.

Poojary was born in Mangalore, Karnataka but grew up in Mumbai. In the early part of his footballing career, he represented Mumbai FC and East Bengal (now SC East Bengal) before joining FC Pune City in the Hero ISL.

Reminiscing about life in the city back in the day and the contribution of his family in his development as a footballer, he said: “I hail from Navi Mumbai, and like most Mumbaikars, we are a middle-class family. We had a modest upbringing. My dad was the sole breadwinner back then. He gave my brother and me, everything we asked for and supported us. My mother was our pillar of support who took care of everything at home.”

When asked if he really harboured the dream of becoming an athlete growing up, the 25-year-old said: “No. I wanted to take part in many events, and win medals. I used to think that professional athletes are different from others and they had their own lifestyle.”

And now that he has become one, how does it feel? “Yes, it is good to be there. But it is an enormous challenge and [only] overcoming these hurdles will keep one moving on the right path,” Poojary said.

Like everyone else, Poojary is trying hard to find ways to cope with the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, both on personal as well as professional level. “It’s been difficult for everyone. It’s been a year to forget but as an athlete, you try to do as much as you can to help your family and friends in these times. And other times you try to follow a routine so that you can keep yourself in excellent condition,” he said.

 

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