Exclusive: "I never doubted my career in football," says Gokulam Kerala star Abhishek Das
Abhishek Das is a right back currently playing for Gokulam Kerala in the ongoing I-League. He began his career at the Tata Football Academy, Jamshedpur. Since then, he has gone on to play for a host of clubs such as East Bengal, United Sikkim, Mohun Bagan and the Indian Arrows.
He has also represented his national side in the U-16, U-19 and the U-23 level. The defender has experience in the enthralling Indian Super League as well, having been a part of the Chennaiyin FC side that won the trophy in 2015. So far this season, he has started each of Gokulam Kerala's I-League encounters.
We caught up with him for an exclusive chat and here's what he had to say about his footballing journey, ISL experience, Kerala's chances for the season and his career targets.
Q. How have you come about your footballing journey? What inspired you to start and pursue the sport professionally?
My mother put me into football because she realized it was the only way I could do something big in life. (laughs)
Q. You started out at East Bengal and went on to play for Sikkim, Pailan Arrows and Mohun Bagan. Can you talk us through your days back then? How was your experience with these clubs?
I still remember - I was the first one from my batch at TFA (Tata Football Academy) who signed for East Bengal. I was so excited to be a part of the Kolkata giants!
Coach Trevor Morgan loved me a lot there, but unfortunately, in my first professional career match, I suffered an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury and was ruled out for six months. Garcia from Brazil, who is the current fitness trainer at ATK helped me a lot during my comeback. It was because of him my I recovered quicker than I thought and I will never forget his contribution.
Then Trevor (Morgan) asked me to go on loan to Sikkim United because just after my injury, he did not want me to take that extra pressure at East Bengal. So, I went there, played all matches and got a new contract from my parent club next season
(Indian) Arrows was my first team in I-League. That group of players were just outstanding. We had a great batch at that time.
Q. Do you remember your senior debut? If yes, can you describe your emotions before and after the game?
Yes, I do, it was back in 2011 - a dream come true moment for me. I always wanted to play at the highest level and I consider myself lucky enough to do so.
Q. How are the preparations leading up to a long I-League season with Gokulam Kerala?
We had a great pre-season and we have a good team, so let's hope for the best.
Q. It's been three games into the new I-League season and Gokulam Kerala are still winless. What do you think needs to change in order to force your way back?
(Firmly) Nothing needs to change as such. It's a long league. Yes, we haven't won yet but I'm sure we will get the three points soon.
Q. You have played for ISL's defending champions Chennayin FC. How was your experience with them? How did the presence of senior players aid your development?
I was with Chennaiyin for three years. (It was a team with) great management, supportive people all around. I played with Marco (Materazzi) and many other legends. It really developed my character as a player and I got huge amounts of experience.
Q. What has been your best performance so far? Can you describe the moment and your emotions?
There are many but I will mention mine and my former club's (Chennaiyin FC) first game in the ISL at Fatorda (FC Goa's home stadium).
We won 2-1 and that match was a real dream for me because I was the youngest person in that team playing alongside big names like (Mikael) Silvestre, Elano and (Bernard) Mendy.
Q. Who is your favourite right back?
Q. If not professional football, what professional would you practice?
I never doubted my career in football. I always believed I will achieve my goal one day. I knew I won't give up till I get there, so never thought of any other profession.
Q. If you have to send out a motivational message to young, aspiring footballers in India, what would it be?
Brothers, set your target and work for it even when no one is watching. Never cheat with football. It's your religion.