Sarthak Golui - India cannot be considered as underdogs any more

Sarthak Golui started his career in Kolkata with Mohun Bagan in the 2015/16 season and had spent two seasons there before moving to Indian Super League (ISL) side FC Pune City.

Being a teenager then, Golui got limited opportunities at a star-studded Mohun Bagan side and had appeared in just two I-League matches and three AFC Cup matches for the Green and Maroons.

At the beginning of ISL 2017/18, Golui got a call from FC Pune City and wasted no time in moving out of Mohun Bagan for Greener pastures.

The switch to ISL proved to be a boon for the youngster’s career as he appeared in 15 matches for Pune City last season. His impressive show grabbed then national team coach Stephen Constantine’s attention and he was called into the India U23 squad for the SAFF Cup 2018.

Sarthak’s consistent performance for the club as well as the national team earned him a call in the Indian squad for the Asian Cup 2019.

In a chat with Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), Golui spoke about his experience at the grand stage of Asian Cup. He said, “It was a great experience being part of the team at the Asian Cup. Though I didn't play, I was with the team at every moment and I think India did very well.”

India U23

The young defender further suggested that India’s impressive show in the continental tournament will remove their ‘underdog tag’.

“I don't think India should be considered as underdogs any more. We showed that we can compete against any team in Asia. There is a little bit of a difference (in the level) but I think we can give a tough competition to any team on a given day. 

“In the last few years and in the Asian Cup, India has been doing great. We have progressed in the FIFA Rankings, we are doing well in friendlies and we started very well in the Asian Cup (4-1 win over Thailand). In the last match also against Bahrain, we could have drawn but unfortunately we lost 1-0 at the last moment and couldn't qualify for the next round,” said the former Mohun Bagan player.

India are all set to take part in King’s Cup later this year - an invitational tournament organised by Thailand - and Sarthak is excited to play the competition.

He said, “Whatever matches we have before the World Cup qualifiers, we have to use them as practice matches to improve ourselves. We should try to get good results in the Kings Cup and take our progress further by giving our best performance in the qualifiers.”

The 21-year-old defender, who is all set to take part in AFC U23 Championship, spoke about the next generation of talent in India.

He said, “I think the India U-17 team did very well at the U-17 World Cup. They played a lot of tournaments in India and abroad where also they did very well. Just a bit more was needed at the World Cup but they displayed very good football. With young players like them, I think India will do great in the future.

“There are many academies in India now. The AIFF are also doing great from the perspective of fielding the young Indian Arrows among the seniors in the I-League which has helped the players mature with competitive game time.

“There should be one philosophy that should be followed right from the academies to the senior teams. It always depends on the situations. I think now players are more confident of keeping the ball with a better ability to pass, even in pressure situations.”