ATK’s defensive mainstay, Pritam Kotal, is fresh off helping his side win the Indian Super League (ISL) title - a campaign where his matured performances in a three-man defence was widely appreciated.
Kotal, who used to play right-back predominantly, was a revelation in central defence under Antonio Habas.
However, the India international started his career as a defensive midfielder. From Wari FC, his first professional club to U-19 national team, Kotal used to play in the heart of the midfield.
But it was only under Colin Toal, India’s former technical director who was also in charge of the U-19 team between 2009-2012, Kotal made his transition to the right-back role.
The Bengali defender was all praises for the British coach for his invaluable contribution in shaping his career.
During a live Instagram chat with the Indian football team’s official handle, Kotal said, “I have fond memories from our U-19 days. We spent 2 years together at the AIFF (All India Football Federation) training centre in Goa. Coach Colin Toal played a very important part in my career. When I was called in the U-19 national team, I was a defensive midfielder. I played two matches as a defensive midfielder. But after that coach changed my position. He helped me a lot to improve and also spent hours after training with me.
“During our first camp in the U-19 national team, in China, I had a knee issue and couldn’t play any game. I had lost hope of making a comeback into the team. But the coach recalled me into the team and gave me a lot of confidence. We learned discipline from the coach and he also helped us to improve our basics.”
When asked if switching from defensive midfield to right-back was a big challenge, Kotal said, “When we learn something new, we obviously struggle. When I was at Wari FC in Kolkata, my first football club, I used to play as a defensive midfielder. Then again under Gautam Ghosh’s coaching in the U-19 national team, I played as a defensive midfielder.
“But after Colin Toal came, he saw me play as a midfielder and then he changed my position. I struggled for two or three months. I took some time to adjust but the coach guided me perfectly.”
Kotal revealed that he is a big fan of former India international Deepak Mondal and used to idolise him while growing up.
“Deepak Mondal (is my idol). As a defender, I used to follow him and his playing style while growing up. He has always helped me grow as a player. We are still in touch and he texted me after the ISL final,” Kotal said during the Live chat.
The former Mohun Bagan defender stated that defenders need to be versatile in order to get a chance in the starting XI.
“A player must give two or three options to a coach. If you are not flexible, you will not get a chance. If you show versatility, the coach will give you more chances.
“Even at Pailan Arrows, then coach Arthur Papas played me as a central defender. I am an introvert so I had to work on my communication which is important for a central defender. Now I can play anywhere in defence.”