Hyderabad FC’s hero in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 final, Laxmikant Kattimani, has signed a two-year contract extension, the club announced on Friday.

The 33-year-old had a fairy tale ending to the recently concluded campaign, where he was also the Hero of the Match in the final. He was almost unbeatable in the penalty shoot-out that eventually won Hyderabad their first-ever trophy.

Kattimani saved four Blasters’ penalties, one of which had to be retaken, and stepped up right when the team needed him.

But long before, he established himself as a trusted custodian for Manolo Marquez as he featured in 22 matches for Hyderabad FC and had a save percentage of 72.61.

“I am very happy to sign a new contract here and I am really grateful to the club for their trust in me. We have an incredible group here. We are one big family and I’m sure together we can achieve many more things,” said Kattimani after putting pen to paper with the Indian Super League Champions in a deal till the end of the 2023-24 season.

The Spanish coach preferred Kattimani, and the Goan believes that this trust is what made it easy for him to sign the new deal.

“Manolo is a coach that really believed in me since he arrived here at the club and gave me the opportunity and confidence to get back to my best. So definitely he played a big part in me continuing here at the club,” added the shot-stopper who earned a well-deserved call-up to the National team.

A two-time I-League winner, a Super Cup winner, and now an ISL Champion, Kattimani was a part of the Blue Tigers that recently secured qualification to the AFC Asian Cup 2023 and is one of the most experienced players in his role in the country.

He has 81 ISL appearances, 42 of them in Yellow and Black, where he registered 14 clean sheets (9 for HFC) and has always been a popular figure in his hometown.

But with his stellar performances since joining Hyderabad FC, he now has a special place in the heart of every Hyderabadi.

The city has already seen him play at the Gachibowli Stadium and Kattimani cannot wait to get back to playing in front of the home fans.

Speaking to the fans, he said, “We really missed you guys the past two years with the situation of Covid, but we felt your support on social media and I only ask you to continue their support from the stands this season and remind everyone how important you are to the team. You are an important part of the family!”

Bengaluru FC sign promising youngsters Amrit Gope and Faisal Ali

Bengaluru FC, on Friday, announced that the club had acquired the services of youngsters Amrit Gope and Faisal Ali, on two and three year deals respectively. Gope, who most recently turned out for TRAU FC, has signed on a deal that will see him at the club until 2023-24, former Mohammedan Sporting winger Ali’s deal runs through until the end of the 2024-25 campaign.

Gope, who joined TRAU in 2021, previously turned out for Jamshedpur FC Reserves between 2018 and 2019, making 12 appearances in the 2nd Division I-League. Ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, the 22-year-old was promoted to the senior team, where he was part of the Red Miners’ Indian Super League squad. Since his move to TRAU, Gope made a further 16 appearances across two seasons in the I-League.

"I'm really happy to join Bengaluru FC, a club that presents me the opportunity to play with and learn from some of the best Indian players and foreigners. My target for the season is to work hard and help the team in whatever way I can. I'm also really looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere at the Kanteerava and meeting the West Block Blues, who I've heard so much about over the years," said Gope, after completing the formalities on his move.

Kolkata-born Ali, meanwhile, started his senior football journey in 2018 with Southern Samity, and transferred to Bhawanipore FC only two years later. The 23-year-old made the move to Mohammedan SC in 2020, and finished sixth in the 2020-21 I-League season. The following year, Ali was part of the Black Panthers squad that finished runners up at the 2021 Durand Cup, and was on target three times as they finished runners up in the 2021-22 I-League.

“Joining Bengaluru FC is a dream come true, and I’m really looking forward to being part of the family. I have wanted to play in the Indian Super League for quite some time now, and my goal is to help the team in every possible way that I can. I am also looking forward to further developing under Simon Grayson, and with the players that Bengaluru FC have in their squad,” said Ali.

The duo, whose signings come as part of the Blues’ continued building of their squad around youngsters, will join a team that has handed contract extensions to Leon Augustine, Namgyal Bhutia, Lara Sharma, Parag Shrivas and Naorem Roshan Singh in recent weeks.

“Faisal and Amrit are players we have had our eyes on for quite some time now. Over the last season, they have stepped up in their respective teams, and we are glad to bring them on board for next season. I am certain that, under Simon, we will see them further develop and play a big part in our attempt to build a winning team,” said club CEO, Mandar Tamhane.

Ali and Gope will join the Blues’ first team in their pre-season training camp, alongside fellow signings Prabir Das and Spanish midfielder Javi Hernandez.