ISL 2021-22: “We should play more matches every year” – Pronay Halder

Pronay Halder will be a vital cog in Jamshedpur FC's midfield in the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League. Image: Jamshedpur FC
Pronay Halder will be a vital cog in Jamshedpur FC's midfield in the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League. Image: Jamshedpur FC

Pronay Halder is synonymous with passion. Hailing from West Bengal’s Barrackpore, the combative defensive midfielder has overcome several obstacles to establish himself as a star of Indian football.

The 28-year-old made his senior debut for AIFF’s developmental team in 2013 and has made steady progress over the past eight seasons. Occasional injuries, meanwhile, did threaten to impede his progress. However, he has bounced back stronger and fitter each time, determined to fulfill his aspirations to play regularly for India.

At club level, Pronay has enjoyed much success. He represented five-time National League champions Dempo S.C. for three seasons (2013-16). He then jumped ship to Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan in 2016. He made his foray into the Indian Super League with a loan spell to FC Goa in 2015, where he played under Brazil legend Zico.

Since then, the experienced midfielder has made 64 appearances in the ISL. He plied his trade for Mumbai City FC (2016), FC Goa (2017-18), ATK FC (2018-20) and ATK Mohun Bagan FC (2020-21). He won the coveted ISL trophy with ATK FC in 2019-20 and was a runner-up with ATKMB FC last season.

Pronay has also been capped 25 times for the national team. He was also a part of India’s victorious South Asia Championship and Intercontinental Cup squads in 2015 and 2018 respectively.

With Lenny Rodrigues’ induction into the ATKMB FC squad in the January transfer window, Pronay lost his place in the first XI. His search for a new club brought him to Jamshedpur as he joined the city’s only ISL side Jamshedpur FC on loan earlier this year. The move therefore marks a “homecoming” for the TATA Football Academy graduate.

In a candid chat with Sportskeeda ahead of the new ISL season, Pronay spoke about his decision to join the Red Miners. He also addressed his “special bond” with Jamshedpur and the need to play more matches every year. The ATKMB loanee then went on to give his views on the prospect of facing former teammates Roy Krishna and David Williams. Here are the excerpts:-

Q: You had a great run with ATK FC and then ATK Mohun Bagan FC over the past couple of years. What made you join Jamshedpur FC ahead of ISL-8?

Pronay: I wasn’t getting enough match time last season, so I started looking for a new club. I informed the ATK Mohun Bagan management and coach [Antonio Lopez] Habas about my decision and they agreed to it. Hence, you now find me at Jamshedpur FC (smiles)!

Q: I think you received a lucrative offer from SC East Bengal as well. Was there any particular reason why you chose Jamshedpur FC over them?

Pronay: When the Gaffer [Owen Coyle] approached me through my agent, I didn’t think twice. SC East Bengal were going through a tumultuous phase at that time, so I thought JFC would be a better option.

Moreover, I share a special bond with Jamshedpur as I graduated from the TATA Football Academy. It was an easy decision to make because the Gaffer himself was keen to have me on board.

Q: What is the team atmosphere of Jamshedpur FC like?

Pronay: It has been great! Our Gaffer motivates every single player. I know most of the boys here and I’ve shared the Indian dressing room with Anas [Edathodika] bhai and Farukh [Choudhary] in the past. In any sport, a team can only achieve success if there is a strong camaraderie among the players.

Q: You’ve already played a few pre-season friendlies alongside Alex Lima. Do you think this combination can become one of the best central midfield pairings in the upcoming season?

Pronay: Maybe the Gaffer can answer that better (laughs). Jokes apart, he [Lima] is an excellent player and is humble both on and off the field. He motivates me a lot and I am sure we’ll develop a great rapport as the season progresses.

Q: Even though India won the recently concluded SAFF Championship, coach Igor Stimac’s tactics came under the scanner. What is your assessment of India’s performance under Stimac?

Halder: I personally feel the team made a brilliant comeback to win the [SAFF Championship] trophy. We all play to win every match. The first two games were aberrations; that can happen with any team.

You need to give any new coach time to settle down. Our previous coach Stephen Constantine was in charge of the national team for four years, so everyone deserves a long run. We all saw how well the Under-23 boys performed in the Asian Cup qualifiers recently.

The team has gelled really well together and we’ve understood what the coach wants from each of us. We'll only get better from here.

Q: India have struggled to win against relatively weaker sides like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka of late. Do you think the Indian domestic season should be longer so as to provide ample match time to the players?

Pronay: Yes, of course. Who doesn’t want to play more matches? I’ve heard the number of matches will increase from next season. The more we play, the more experienced we’ll become. I personally feel we should play more matches every year.

Pronay captaining India in the 2019 Asian Cup. Image: AIFF
Pronay captaining India in the 2019 Asian Cup. Image: AIFF

Q: You’ll be up against your former teammates Roy Krishna, David Williams and Manvir Singh in your matches against ATKMB FC. How challenging will it be to stop them?

Pronay: We’ll take one match at a time. Our first match is against SC East Bengal, so we’re currently thinking about that. We aim to execute the Gaffer’s plans effectively and win as many matches as possible. It’s not an easy task. We’ve to work very hard and improve both offensively and defensively in order to win the title.

ATKMB will obviously be a strong opponent because of their forward line. I know Roy Krishna and David Williams very well, but as a professional footballer I’ve to stop other players too (laughs)!

Q: You’ve won many accolades in your eight-year long career so far. Do you think your presence can propel Jamshedpur FC to their elusive ISL triumph?

Pronay: Football is not an individual sport. We need to work together as a unit and follow the Gaffer’s instructions to the tee. With the fans’ support and blessings, hopefully we can bring the trophy to Jamshedpur this season.

Jamshedpur FC will square off against SC East Bengal in their first match of ISL-8 at Vasco’s Tilak Maidan Stadium on November 21.

Poll : Which ISL team has a stronger attacking force this season?

Jamshedpur FC

ATK Mohun Bagan FC

68 votes

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Edited by Aditya Singh
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