"I never thought I would become the best goalkeeper in the I-League" - Bhaskar Roy on his dream season, ISL ambitions & more

Bhaskar Roy's I-League success has given wings to his ISL dream. Image: RUFC Media
Bhaskar Roy's I-League success has given wings to his ISL dream. Image: RUFC Media

Bhaskar Ganguly, a legend in the annals of Indian football, guarded the sticks for the three Kolkata giants - Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting Club - during his glorious playing career. The goalkeeper also led India at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.

Fast forward 40 years, and his namesake, also a goalkeeper, has won the Golden Glove award in the recently concluded edition of the I-League. Playing for Rajasthan United FC, Bhaskar Roy kept eight clean sheets and made 44 saves in 17 appearances, which made the league debutants a solid defensive unit and propelled them into the championship phase.

Hailing from a small village called Basunia Para in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, Roy is a member of the Indian navy. The tall custodian’s talent was spotted by Chandan Kumar Chanda at Siliguri’s Sports Authority of India (SAI) training centre in 2009, and he soon relocated to SAI’s Kolkata centre, where his rapid rise earned him a job in the Navy.

Roy won consecutive Santosh Trophy titles with Services in 2015 and 2016, but an opportunity to showcase his skills in India’s top flight eluded him until Punjab FC (then Minerva Punjab) snapped him up in 2017.

Although Punjab clinched their maiden I-League crown that season, Roy didn’t get to play a game. He made sporadic appearances, including one in the AFC Champions League Qualifiers, during his three-year stint at the club. But that wasn’t enough to draw interest from bigger teams.

That's all in the past now. Riding high on his recent success, Roy now aspires to make a mark in the cash-rich Indian Super League (ISL).

Unlike some of his contemporaries who shy away from the limelight, the 29-year-old is thoroughly enjoying the sudden surge in media attention. He once candidly said:

"Who doesn’t want to be famous? That’s why we work so hard."

Sportskeeda recently caught up with Roy for a freewheeling chat where he opened up about his formative years, the clubs he’s currently in talks with, his ISL dream, and more. Here are the excerpts:

Q: Congratulations on being adjudged the best goalkeeper of I-League 2021-22. Did you expect to win the award before the season began?

Roy: I was quietly confident, but never thought that I would become the best goalkeeper in the I-League. My confidence increased as I kept playing more matches. I wanted to prove myself because I didn’t get much game time in the past few seasons.

Q: Rajasthan United’s goalkeeping coach Dipankar Debnath has been your long-time mentor. How much has he motivated you this past season?

Roy: Dipankar da has helped me a lot. We live near each other, so if I perform poorly, it will be a disgrace for both of us (laughs). Dipankar da is like an elder brother to me. He has lent me a lot of mental support.

Q: What aspects of your game did you seek to improve before the start of the I-League?

Roy: Footwork and passing. I worked extremely hard on these two aspects and it bore fruit during the tournament.

Q: How did you get drawn towards goalkeeping in your formative years?

Roy: As a child, I was more attracted towards volleyball. Since I was quite tall back then as well, my coach Manoj Datta advised me to take up goalkeeping. I’ve never looked back since. I stopped playing volleyball and devoted all my time and energy to football.

Q: Who is your goalkeeping idol?

Roy: Iker Casillas! I started following Real Madrid because of him. I am a huge admirer of his work ethic.

Q: And among the Indian goalkeepers?

Roy: I’m a big fan of Mishtu da (Subrata Paul). I’ve never interacted with him, but I have been following him for many years now. He’s very hardworking.

Q: You share your name with a legendary Indian goalkeeper…

Roy: Yes, I know! Bhaskar Ganguly is a legend. I would love to talk to him one day.

Q: How did your breakthrough happen in top-flight football?

Roy: Minerva Punjab gave me my break in the 2017-18 season. I was playing a friendly match for the Indian Navy against them in Chandigarh. They liked my performance and offered me a contract after the game. Although I didn’t make any appearances for them in the I-League that season, I have learned a lot from that stint.

Q: You won two consecutive Santosh Trophy titles with Services and also participated in the AFC Champions League Qualifiers. However, you didn’t get enough game time in the I-League before joining Rajasthan United. How frustrating was that phase?

Roy: I regret not getting enough chances at Minerva. I was desperate to prove that I’m one of India’s best goalkeepers. That motivated me to give my best while playing for Rajasthan United.

Q: The Minerva Academy is rated as one of the best academies in the country. What makes it so special?

Roy: Trainees at the Minerva Academy stay connected to football 24*7. Your world revolves around the sport there and you forget everything that’s happening outside. Even in your leisure time, they encourage you to play FIFA on PlayStation. It’s certainly a brilliant academy for budding footballers.

Q: You are over six feet tall. What are the advantages of being a tall goalkeeper in Indian football?

Roy: Height is a big advantage for a goalkeeper as it boosts your aerial game. A tall goalkeeper can cover a larger area of the goal, which is very important.

Q: Which performance of yours this season do you rate the highest?

Roy: The TRAU and Churchill Brothers (first phase) matches are my favourites. We kept clean sheets in both matches and I made six saves in our 2-0 win over TRAU in April.

Q: You’ve played against a few ISL clubs while representing the Indian Navy in the Durand Cup. Have you seen any major differences between the standards of the ISL and I-League teams?

Roy: To be honest, there’s not much of a difference. I’ve played against ISL clubs like Kerala Blasters FC, Bengaluru FC and FC Goa in the past. The quality of the Indian players is almost the same [in the two leagues]. The only difference is that the ISL teams have better foreigners, which makes all the difference.

Q: Which attacker was the toughest to face in this year’s I-League?

Roy: Marcus Joseph. He’s a beast!

Q: Your idol Casillas dreamt of playing for Real Madrid since his childhood. Which Indian club do you dream of representing?

Roy: Obviously East Bengal and Mohun Bagan! Ask any Bengali and they’ll tell you the same thing (laughs)! If you don’t play for either of these clubs, your football career will be incomplete.

Q: Have they ever contacted you?

Roy: (After a short pause) My agent has told me that East Bengal are interested. East Bengal's officials haven’t contacted me yet.

Q: We’ve heard that Mohammedan Sporting Club (MDSP) too are keen to acquire your services…

Roy: Yes. Mohammedan have contacted Rajasthan United’s manager several times, expressing their interest in me.

Q: Mohammedan are currently eyeing an entry into the ISL. Are you open to joining them if given a lucrative deal in the near future?

Roy: Yeah, sure! Mohammedan and Rajasthan United stayed on the same floor in the hotel, but I didn’t interact with them as I was a bit shy. I would love to train under Sandip Nandy.

Q: Will you prefer the ISL to the I-League even if you get less game time in the former?

Roy: I aspire to play in the ISL. I'm confident that I can cement my spot in the playing XI. I’ve seen the performances of goalkeepers in the ISL and I believe that I’m just as good as them, if not better.

Q: Last question. How do you want to be remembered after you hang up your boots?

Roy: I want to be remembered as a goalkeeper who carved his niche in Indian football. I want to establish myself as a Manuel Neuer-like sweeper keeper here.

Poll : Which club do you want Bhaskar Roy to play for in the new season?

Mohammedan Sporting Club

East Bengal Club

69 votes

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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