2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier success will be a ‘boost’ to Indian football, says Mondal

The East Bengal and India defender believes “the next generation will benefit” from it.

Arnab Mondal...“For us players, all 22 in the squad know their responsibility.”   -  K. Murali Kumar

Arnab Mondal, the East Bengal and India defender, believes India’s successful outing in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifier will be a “boost” for India’s long-term football ambitions. Mondal, after recovering from a knee injury, is back in the national squad, preparing at the Mumbai Football Arena before India leaves for Cambodia to play to play a preparatory game.

“Qualifying will be a boost for Indian football. If we do well, the next generation will benefit and even those of us in this squad competent enough to last long will benefit,” Mondal said.

Mondal referred to India’s continuous improvement while recalling a comprehensive victory against the higher-ranked Puerto Rico last year. “We have been consistent in performances for some time. Even though Puerto Rico was ranked higher (FIFA ranking 114 then, 38 places above the host team), it did not reflect on the pitch. India’s performance was confident, each player given a chance proved his worth.”

Gurpreet Singh had led India to a memorable win. Mondal was manning the defence that day at the Mumbai Football Arena. Both are listed among the probables and may team up again.

Team work

Mondal served as India’s captain during the World Cup Qualifiers in 2015, under the guidance of Stephen Constantine as coach. Mondal was quick to point out that responsibility was shared as a strategy. “India had four captains in that tournament. Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh and me were named. It was not as if one person was asked to take responsibility. We played as a team, captain is only one person named to lead, on the pitch India plays as a group.”

Asked if he felt rotational captaincy brings out the best in the team, he said: “For us players, all 22 in the squad know their responsibility. Each one is aware of the work expected from him.”

Mondal, as a key player in the backline for India, East Bengal or Atletico de Kolkata, has played with different goalkeepers. Asked to describe experiences with custodians Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh (India), T. Rehenesh (East Bengal), Edel Bete and Debjit Majumder (ATK), he agreed that each one was talented. “Combination (between defender and goalkeeper) is developed in training sessions. If your basics are in place, you can adjust when the goalkeeper guides you. The more organised a custodian is, his work will be lesser.”

Explaining the goalkeepers’ varied style, he said: “Subrata keeps shouting directions to us, if you have noticed. Gurpreet is experienced and has his own way. Bete I don’t wish to discuss since this is the national camp and he plays in the [Indian Super League]. Rehenesh asks us to tap the ball back to him. These days goalkeepers are confident playing the ball with their legs. We like to play with such team-mates, ready to accept the ball when the defence comes under pressure.”

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