In his stint with Hyderabad FC so far, the peripatetic Laxmikant Kattimani finds himself at the vanguard of his team's spirited revival. Hailing from the little town of Cansaulim in Goa, Kattimani has stepped up into big shoes at Hyderabad FC.
His figures tell the narrative of his journey to the ISL. Laxmikant Kattimani began his senior professional career with local club Vasco in 2008. The following year, he switched to another Goan club, Dempo, and went on to represent them for seven years. He won the I-League twice with the side.
Kattimani has been a standout player in the ISL since his debut with FC Goa. He ranked second on the 'Most Saves' chart for the 2015 and the 2016 season. He then plied his trade to Hyderabad FC in 2019.
Under head coach Manuel Marquez, he became the first-choice goalkeeper in season 7 of the ISL. He kept six clean sheets in 14 games while conceding less than one goal per game.
The 31-year-old has played for the Nizams on 33 occasions, making 75 saves and keeping 7 clean sheets.
Laxmikant Kattimani spoke exclusively with Sportskdeeda about his stint at Hyderabad FC, his formative years and other topics.
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Excerpts from the interview with Hyderabad FC's custodian Laxmikant Kattimani
Q. Hyderabad FC has evolved as one of the better teams in the last two seasons, with some young players rising as superstars. With so many HFC players receiving national call-ups this year, what are your thoughts on the Indian team setup, and do you believe it can improve in the coming years?
Kattimani: Of course, it is great when a lot of players from the club get a call up to the national team set up, because it shows the progress made by them over the past one and a half seasons and we hope to continue on that path with many more call ups. The more competitive the ISL gets, and as it grows in quality and even duration of the league, the national team will definitely benefit from that.
Q. What is your take on Manuel Marquez’s style of play and philosophy?
Kattimani: Manuel Marquez is one of the best coaches in ISL. I think he has a style of play and philosophy that is very demanding, practical and well drilled into all of us as players. The most important thing is that all the players buy into it and play in the same style that the coach wants.
Q. In comparison to your past ISL clubs, you've been having a good time at Hyderabad FC. So, how far have you technically progressed under the direction of Hyderabad FC's goalkeeping coaches?
Kattimani: Yes, I know I'm having fun with Hyderabad FC, and it's all because of our coaching staff for assisting me in improving and learning a lot under their guidance.
Marc Gammon, our goalie coach, has greatly aided me in improving my technical element of goalkeeping. He encourages us (goalkeepers) to work on our techniques to make goalkeeping easier. He shows us our training films and tells us where we need to work on and improve. This helps us learn by observing ourselves and the mistakes we make.
Q. What, in your opinion, has reinforced Hyderabad FC since the previous season? What makes the club unique?
Kattimani: I think the continuity helps, of course. We have a lot of players that are the same from last season, especially the Indian players who know exactly what the coach wants, so progress can be made in the right direction.
I think the bond we have among the players and staff - the family-like atmosphere is what makes this club very unique and it reflects on the pitch too.
Q. With Hyderabad FC being a definite contender for the playoffs this time, does it put you under a bit of pressure? Or does it give you confidence?
Kattimani: No, not really. There’s no pressure at all. In fact we are confident that we will have a good season ahead, we just finished the first round and from here on we will focus on one match at a time and try to win as many matches as we can.
Q. Can you talk us through your formative years. How did you get into football? What made you to specialize in goalkeeping?
Kattimani: In my village I used to play as goalkeeper in small side games and I was fearless. One of my friends saw my goalkeeping skills and told our school sir Jude who took me to play for Vasco Sports Club for under-12. I did very well, so I started playing as goalkeeper and when I was 15 years old, I got the opportunity to train under goalkeeper coach Rogerio Ramos who helped me to improve my basic goalkeeping skills.
Q. There is tough competition among Indian goalkeepers now. What do you think should be your target for the remaining season so that you can earn a national call-up soon?
Kattimani: I just want to focus on myself and my game, try to keep clean sheets and give good performances and help my team as much as I can and wait for my chance for the national team call up.
Q. Training oneself during a pandemic is not easy. So, how did you get the upper hand and put yourself at ease in this bio-bubble?
Kattimani: It was easy for me to do my workouts at home as I got some gym equipment and open space to do my cardio exercises and i was mentally prepared and ready during the off season. Due to the pandemic situation, we knew that we would again have the upcoming Isl season in a bio bubble and I was ready.
Q. Any special message to the Hyderabad FC fans?
Kattimani: I know it's difficult for them not to be in the stands at the stadiums for the last half year, but we feel their support on social media from afar. I just ask them to keep supporting us and backing us right until the end, we need them and they should know that they are an important part of the club!