December 8, 2021

ISL 2020-21: Pritam Kotal has special emotions for the maroon and green jersey

Spread the love

Kotal recounts his favourite Kolkata Derby moment in a chat with GOAL…

Pritam Kotal is one of the most experienced Kolkata Derby campaigners in the current ATK Mohun Bagan squad. He hails from Kolkata and from his childhood he has grown up witnessing the razzmatazz that involves the boro match (big match) of Kolkata Maidan. 

As a kid, his father Shiburam Kotal used to take him to the Salt Lake Stadium to watch this classic rivalry. And whenever a certain Jose Ramirez Barreto would run towards the corner flag in a Lionel Messi-esque celebration with the arms pointing towards the heavens after scoring against the Red and Golds, his joy would know no bounds. 

Like every aspiring Bengali footballer, he had a dream; it was to don the Green and Maroon jersey and participate in a derby. Now as one of the five captains of Bagan, there is a possibility that he might lead his team on the pitch on Friday evening, a feat he is yet to achieve in spite of playing five seasons at Mohun Bagan. 

“I am pretty excited to come back. Previously I had played for both ATK and Mohun Bagan (simultaneously) when the I-League and ISL (Indian Super League) were held one after the other. Bagan fans love me a lot. I have a different sentiment and emotion towards the maroon and green jersey. I have won the I-League and Federation Cup wearing that jersey. I’m really happy to wear the same colours once again,” expressed the India international in a chat with Goal. 

Growing up in Uttarpara, a Mohun Bagan bastion, he understands the passion and emotions of the supporters better than most of his teammates. The fans are one of the most important elements of this fixture and although the match will be played in an empty stadium due to the ongoing pandemic, he knows that back in Kolkata the excitement levels will go through the roof. 

“The fans are extra motivation. Mohun Bagan fans are spread across the world. When we used to play in Bengaluru, there were so many supporters we could not understand whose home match it was. We wish to take the club to a different level and be successful on the continental stage.” 

Kotal is brimming with confidence after winning the opener against Kerala Blasters. He had a decent outing and hardly put a step wrong in the match. He feels that getting off to a winning start has helped them gain more confidence and now wants to make the most of the momentum going into the all-important fixture. 

“We will definitely be a bit ahead mentally in Friday’s derby after winning the Kerala match. We were the champions last year. So we have to play like champions, that’s what I am telling everyone.”

The 27-year old has participated in 13 derbies and his most memorable clash remains the one where the Mariners won 2-1 in Siliguri, a hotspot for East Bengal fans. It was in this match that Sony Norde scored a stunning free-kick and did the ‘sten gun’ celebration which is a rage amongst fans even today. 

“The derby win in Siliguri will always be special. The East Bengal fans were in overwhelming numbers that day. Yet we won the match convincingly. We silenced them and it was altogether a different kind of feeling. 

“(But) I will never forget the experience of playing my first derby. The roar of the fans while getting out of the tunnel at the Salt Lake stadium is surreal. Always wanted to play in a derby since childhood. A dream got fulfilled that day.”

Kotal is confident that they have it in them to beat Robbie Fowler’s men in this season’s first derby. Also, there’s little doubt that Antonio Habas’ men are on a high after getting the better of Blasters. They look favourites on paper. But history has shown us on many occasions that the underdogs have gone on to bag the bragging rights, with the favourites biting the dust.