"I hope to see Mohammedan Sporting Club in the ISL soon" - Irfan Pathan

Irfan Pathan enjoying himself amidst Mohammedan's passionate fans. Image: MSC
Irfan Pathan enjoying himself amidst Mohammedan's passionate fans. Image: MSC
Ritam Basu

Former Indian all-rounder and Mohammedan Sporting Club brand ambassador Irfan Pathan visited the club tent on Monday to attend the live screening of the Kolkata giants’ I-League clash against Kenkre FC.

Playing their sixth match of the current edition of the I-League, Mohammedan pipped bottom-placed Kenkre FC 1-0 at the Naihati Stadium, courtesy of Marcus Joseph’s 72nd-minute winner.

The win helped the Black and White brigade consolidate their position at the top of the table after suffering a surprise defeat against the 12th-placed Churchill Brothers in their previous game. They are now two points clear of defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC, whom they will next face on Friday.

In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, facilitated by Digital Ideas, Pathan spoke about Mohammedan Sporting Club’s rich legacy, their possible entry into the Indian Super League (ISL) and the the Indian cricket team’s love for football. Here are the excerpts.

“Association with Mohammedan Sporting Club is a privilege” – Pathan

Pathan, who was a potent match-winner for India during his nine-year international career between 2003 and 2012, has been in awe of Mohammedan SC’s 131-year-old legacy. The club’s current investor, Gurugram-based BunkerHill Pvt Ltd, announced him as Mohammedan’s official brand ambassador in December last year.

Speaking about the association, Pathan said:

“It’s a great feeling to be associated with such a historical club. Now that BunkerHill is supporting the club and I’m the brand ambassador, I consider it to be my utmost privilege. I’ve endorsed quite a few big companies and channels before, but this is very special. Nothing gets better than being a part of an iconic club like Mohammedan.”

"The best thing about Mohammedan is that they play nine months of football every year" – Pathan

BunkerHill Pvt Ltd has been patronizing Mohammedan SC since October 2020 and has so far invested heavily in the club’s football operations. The financial boost has helped the Kolkata giants stage a dramatic turnaround on the Indian football circuit and given wings to their ISL ambitions.

From languishing in Indian football’s second division until a few years ago to becoming a major contender for the I-League title, Mohammedan’s resurgence has all the makings of a fairy tale.

The Andrey Chernyshov-managed side have bagged two titles (the I-League second division in 2020 and the Calcutta Football League in 2021) and finished runners-up in the 130th Durand Cup and the inaugural Futsal Club Championship over the past couple of years.

Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda three months ago, BunkerHill’s director Dipak Kumar Singh revealed that Mohammedan are likely to join the ISL from the 2023-24 season onwards.

Pathan, too, sounded optimistic about the club’s foray into India’s top-flight football tournament when he said:

“I really hope that this club grows by leaps and bounds and we get to see Mohammedan Sporting Club in the ISL soon.”

The 37-year-old also eulogized Mohammedan’s zeal to participate in various domestic football tournaments throughout the year, saying:

“While other clubs only play for three to four months, Mohammedan plays for nine months every year. That’s the best thing about this club. Other clubs who want to promote football should take a leaf out of Mohammedan’s book and start playing as many tournaments as possible. Ultimately, it’s going to help the youngsters.”

Incidentally, two other Kolkata giants, SC East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan, pulled out of last year's Calcutta Football League (CFL), which Mohammedan won after a 40-year hiatus.

“I loved playing football, but was careful not to get injured” – Pathan on the Indian cricket team’s football culture

Team India have a tradition of playing football to warm up before matches. Despite causing several injuries, football was a regular part of the Indian cricket team’s training schedule during Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s stint as captain. The keeper-batter himself was a promising goalkeeper in his formative years.

The second Indian to claim a Test hat-trick after Harbhajan Singh, Pathan recounted his experience of playing football with his former teammates, saying:

“During my cricket career, I preferred playing football over watching it. After my retirement, though, I watch the sport a lot more. The Indian cricket team played football regularly in the warm-up sessions. I used to play for the same team as Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, M.S. Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary."

The former left-arm seamer and explosive left-handed batter said before signing off:

"The Indian cricket team of the early 2010s loved playing football and we were always ready for it! Obviously, we were also wary of injuries and non-professional footballers like us had to be careful. I was very cautious because I didn’t want to suffer an injury by tripping down. It’s a game of skill and gives you amazing fitness.”

Edited by Samya Majumdar


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