Rathi: Hero ISL is a great launchpad for youngsters aspiring to play abroad
The Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) has been a hotbed for budding talents since its inception in 2014 and one of the many players to take advantage of the league’s world class infrastructure is ATK Mohun Bagan FC youngster Sumit Rathi. The 18-year-old, who was the Hero ISL Emerging Player of the League for the 2019-20 season, feels that the league provides a fantastic platform for young footballers who dream of playing abroad in the future.
“I think playing in ISL is a great thing for every young player, your confidence level goes up, your technical level goes up… you always feel proud to play whenever you are on the pitch. It is a great launchpad for young players like me who dream to someday play abroad,” Rathi said in an interview with thebridge.in.
Although the opportunity of playing abroad is enticing for youngsters, Rathi knows the importance of making the right decision at the right time. “Of course, for any Indian player, playing in Europe or any of Asia’s top leagues is an incredible opportunity. But I think that decision has to be very important… when, where and which league you should play in, you have to take the right decision as a player. I have not thought about it yet, I have just started but certainly, if I get a chance to play in Europe or a top Asian league, it will be a big thing for me,” he opined.
The young defender was promoted to the first team last season and cemented his place in the starting XI after Anas Edathodika succumbed to injury. He went on to play 14 matches for ATK FC in their run to the Hero ISL trophy and made a massive 115 clearances for his team. However, the 18-year-old centre-back is not about to rest on his laurels.
"Last season is in the past. Now I don’t want to think much about it. The truth of life is that you have to move forward with the good moments of your life. The life of a sportsman is never easy, there are obstacles that come your way and you have to understand how to handle it and how to deal with it. At the end of the day, I don’t think we will face a lot of problems if we just set our goals and keep working hard towards them and believe in ourselves. What is more important for me right now is that I need to improve my performance level day by day. I want to try to give my best effort always, for my club and country,” he said.
ATK Mohun Bagan will also play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup next season, and Rathi is looking forward to the challenge ahead. “The AFC Cup and AFC Champions League are two of the biggest events and obviously, they are extremely competitive. There will be experienced sides who play high quality football. I think this is a very big opportunity for any club who ever participates in these leagues. As a team, we want to win the cup. It will be a huge thing for the club and for the country,” he said,
“Moreover, in these tournaments, you get a chance to show your talent in front of the best Asian clubs. Overall, this is a very big event where you can take your club and your country forward,” Rathi added.