Arnab Mondal, the man who teammate Iain Hume said would add steel to Atletico de Kolkata’s (ATK) defence in ISL3, said he has some catching up to do for missing the pre-seasons in Madrid.
“Such is the calendar in India. We need to be ready for it mentally and physically,” said Mondal, one of India’s regular central defenders since the 2013 SAFF Championships.
Speaking at the team’s first media interaction on Friday, Mondal, 26, said not being able to join the month-long preparations means he would need to work harder over the next nine days before ATK open against Chennaiyin FC at home in what would be a clash between champions of the first two editions.
“There was nothing I could do about it because there were commitments to be fulfilled at East Bengal. The good thing is that we have a deep squad and that will help the new coach (Jose Molina) rotate players,” said Mondal who has been with East Bengal since 2012.
Bidding to win their seventh successive Kolkata league, East Bengal didn’t release players for the stint in Madrid. That meant along with Mondal, Lalrindika Ralte, Robert Lalthlamuana, Abhinash Ruidas and Bikash Jairu weren’t part of the pre-seasons.
Time will tell how much that impacts Atletico de Kolkata, especially because all but three Indians --- Mondal, Raja and Kinshuk Debnath --- are new to the side. What goes in our favour though is that the Indian footballers are known to each other, said Mondal. “Therefore, it won’t take long to adjust.”
Soon after, he took Stephen Constantine’s assertion of ISL being a good platform for knowledge transfer, given the level of international players and coaches in the competition, further.
“It can’t be denied that the ISL has helped build our confidence and that in turn has helped the national team.” At another point in the interaction, Mondal mentioned how playing with Spaniards Josemi in the first edition and Tiri in the second improved him as a defender. “I would follow Josemi’s instructions. Tiri too has good leadership qualities,” said Mondal.
Hume said his target is to win the league. He came close in the first season where Kerala Blasters finished runners-up and in 2015, ATK lost in the semi-finals to eventual champions.
“We had one bad game that killed the season. I am looking to continue with that consistency and with the amplified power of a fit Helder (Postiga), get to the semis, said Hume.
ATK marquee Helder Postiga and Hume skipped the first training session in Kolkata on Friday because, a source in the team said, they were tired after the long flight from Madrid on Thursday and media commitments.
“My fitness is really good. We had a good pre-seasons and I feel fantastic,” said Postiga.