Girik Khosla: "The ultimate goal is to play for the Indian national team"
"The feeling hasn't sunk in yet completely", said a jubilant Girik Khosla when asked about his club Minerva Punjab FC's triumphant Hero I-League season just a week ago. The Chandigarh-based club became the first North Indian side to become the champions of India after JCT, who had won the National Football League way back in 1996-97.
Girik Khosla was a part of this historic victory in Indian football and cherishes the day as one of the most memorable ones in his career so far. However, the rewarding destination to the championship has been achieved through an onerous journey.
The 23-year old Girik's footballing journey began in the muddy grounds of Matunga in the suburbs of Mumbai. Girik began playing football at a very young age following the footsteps of his brother Bhavin Khosla. The two brothers were part of Don Bosco, one of the most respected schools in Mumbai when it comes to nurturing sporting talents.
Girik Khosla, who played in an attacking role, continued playing during his college days and earned a spot in the youth setup at former I-League regulars Mumbai FC. He moved on to Nagpur FC, where he trained under former Indian international Bimal Ghosh and, was selected to play for Chandigarh's Santosh Trophy. Khosla' exploits in front of the goal propelled the Chandigarh side into the final phase of the Santosh Trophy for the first time in 19 years.
Girik arrived at Minerva Academy in Chandigarh two years ago, when they earned the right to play in the I-League and had a decent first season for the Punjab side which saw Minerva Punjab finish in the ninth position on the table. This season, however, was different from the get-go as he states.
"We had a proper pre-season before the I-League began. We played in Punjab League and won some local tournaments that helped us to gel together as a team, which was not the case last season."
Minerva started the season on a great note, running through the competition and, taking a sizeable lead at the top of the table. At one point, they looked far and away in the lead and on course to seize the title a few weeks before the final game. However, life is full of ups and downs, and the Punjab side hit the 'down' portion of their season. They lost three out of their four games in a row and made the title picture quite complicated.
During such a time in the season, the footballers must experience a roller coaster of emotions and it was the same for young Girik.
"We were disappointed, we didn't understand what was going wrong. The coaches and our owner Mr. Ranjit Bajaj did their best to motivate us during this period, which helped the dressing room to stay focused on the goal."
Minerva Punjab FC's owner Mr. Ranjit Bajaj is famous in the Indian footballing circuit for his outspoken behavior and daredevil attitude. Girik speaks highly of Bajaj and the bond that he shared with the players. "He spoke to all of us players like we were his brothers. We never felt a sense of any formalities with him, he was like a friend to us."
A well-knit dressing room is critical to a team's success and Minerva Punjab was just that as GIrik reminisces. "Our skipper Kassim Aidara was the leader in the dressing room and held the team together through thick and thin. Even Sukhdev Singh showed great leadership quality."
Another major support that a player always requires in a tough, competitive world is that of his family and Girik has that in abundance. His father Mr. Mahesh Khosla is an avid Indian footballer and takes a rich interest in it through social media as well.
"My family is everything for me. I started playing looking up to by brother Bhavin. My father is my role model in life and he means a lot to me. He has never stopped me from following my passion in life and kept motivating me to believe in myself. What do I say about my mother, you know how moms are."
Girik was a product of Mumbai football and expresses a desire to play for a Mumbai club at the highest level one day.
"I would love to be part of a football club from Mumbai for sure. I always had this goal and hope one day it can become a reality. Sadly, there was no I-League time this around, but if an opportunity arises in the future, I would be up to represent my city."
The feat of becoming an I-League champion can sometimes be the crowning glory in the career of an Indian footballer, however, Girik Khosla does not want to limit himself and stop at that. His voice echoes a true sense of ambition in final words, "The ultimate goal is to play for the Indian national team. I want to represent my country and If I get that chance, I would prove everything I have set out to."