'I don't really feel pressure, I feed off it', Mumbai City's Sarthak Golui relishing ISL's cauldron of pressure (Exclusive)
On the 29th of December, 2019 at the Mumbai Football Arena, the encounter between Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC stood precariously placed. The Islanders boasted a one-goal cushion yet the visitors grew into the game slowly, meaning that a tense final quarter of the match awaited.
To compound the nerves, Sarthak Golui was contentiously issued his marching orders in the 67th minute as the hosts faced a prospect of staving off an impending attacking wave, despite enduring a numerical disadvantage.
Unsurprisingly, the defender left the field absolutely distraught, a sight that was discernibly visible to those in attendance. Fortunately for him and Mumbai though, they weren’t made to pay as they edged past Phil Brown’s side courtesy a 2-1 margin.
A few days later, once the dust had settled on that contest, Sarthak delved deeper into the game and opened up in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda. He said,
Obviously I felt that I had let the team down and I even stood near the tunnel just to see if the free-kick that I had conceded resulted in a goal or not. But, hats off to my teammates who saw out the game and ensured that we got three points. And, it was a huge sigh of relief for me that we won.
Additionally, he profusely praised the role his peers and the coaching staff played in helping him recover from that setback. He quipped,
I’m lucky that my teammates around me supported me and the coach also lent his support. I made a mistake but because of their help, I was able to heal myself from it.
And, that particular trait of the Mumbai players standing up for each other isn’t really beyond the realms of possibility, especially considering they’ve outlined the aforementioned quality on numerous occasions.
Jorge Costa, in particular, has been quick to term his side as one large family that wins and more importantly, loses together, meaning that they’ve not found it too tough to bounce back from unfavourable results.
To put things into perspective, the Islanders were languishing in the bottom trenches in the first half of December, only to turn it around magnificently with a string of consecutive victories.
However, Sarthak was also mindful of not looking too far ahead, noting that each game needed to be tackled in isolation. He remarked,
We have to take one game at a time and not think too far ahead. While it is good to have future goals, one cannot achieve that particular target if he doesn’t train properly in the present. Thus, the only thing on our mind right now is getting all three points against ATK on Saturday.
On a personal front, the former Mohun Bagan defender crossed the Maharashtra divide before the 2019-20 campaign, when he opted to sign for Mumbai City FC. Having functioned primarily as a right-sided centre-back for Pune City FC last term, Sarthak was cast straight into the deep end at the outset of the current season when the Islanders paired him alongside Mato Grgic at the heart of the defence.
Consequently, several were intrigued to see how he would cope, especially considering he also had to adapt to a new culture and philosophy. So far though, the centre-back has passed those tests with flying colours.
When quizzed about his success mantra, he replied,
It is important to learn at every point in time. Each manager has his own idea of playing and it is vital to understand what exactly he is asking you to do. And, of course, you have to work hard to achieve what you want to accomplish. There is no substitute for hard work.
Over the course of the current season, Sarthak has been endowed with tremendous pressure, partly due to the club’s injury crisis and their patchy form at the beginning. Yet, whenever called upon, the defender has stood up to be counted, meaning that central defence is perhaps the least of Costa’s worries currently.
Subsequently, one couldn’t help but ask the defender how he reacted to the expectations and how he managed to put his best foot forward each time. He opined,
My father is a footballer and I had that love for the game from the start. I began as a youngster in Kolkata’s local leagues and then made by senior debut for Mohun Bagan. In Kolkata, football is such a big thing that you are used to large crowds, even for first division matches. I believe that my experiences there have immensely helped as I have learnt to handle that aspect. In fact, I have drawn inspiration from it so much that I don’t really feel pressure anymore, I rather feed off it.
And, in light of his journey from just another football fanatic kid in Kolkata to the mainstay in one of the ISL’s premier sides, one couldn’t really disbelieve the way he had developed himself in order to retain equanimity, even in the most adverse of circumstances.
After all, that’s what any team in the competition, let alone Mumbai, would be craving for, especially with the tournament primed to enter its home stretch in a few weeks’ time.
Inevitably though, that would just amp up the expectations and pressure a notch. Yet, fortunately for the Islanders, they have a defensive rock capable of withstanding it and most tellingly, adept enough to use it to his advantage to chart an unprecedented upward trajectory.