ISL 2016: Atletico made them more athletic!

Arnab Mondal, the seasoned defender of Atletico de Kolkata for three seasons, feels the influence of Atletico Madrid, which as a part owner gave its name to the Kolkata outfit, was chiefly responsible in making the team champion on two occasions.

Atletico de Kolkata owners Utsav Parekh (extreme left) and Sanjiv Goenka (middle) launch the team’s new anthem along with players Iain Hume, Helder Postiga and Arnab Mondal last year. Mondal says that the interaction with top international players like Postiga has helped the Indian players immensely.   -  PTI

Arnab Mondal emerged as one of the best defenders in the country while turning out for Atletico Kolkata for three seasons. He is one of the few players in the squad who had the honour of lifting the crown twice.

Arnab, who went on loan to the ISL side, has decided to stay back with his old club East Bengal as the ISL and I-League will be played concurrently this season.

The seasoned defender feels the influence of Atletico Madrid, which as a part owner gave its name to the Kolkata outfit, was chiefly responsible in making the team champion on two occasions.

In the words of Mondal, “Jose Molina as a coach was tactically very sound and he ensured that the team retained the best of fitness by rotating players in a particular system that would not destroy the shape of the team. The environment around the team was quite encouraging and that reflected in our performance especially in the way we made some spectacular turnarounds in some matches in the last season.

“The efficiency of Atletico Kolkata (ATK) was built mainly on the technical support ensured by its Spanish partner, Atletico Madrid (ATM). Beginning with selection of the players to strategising and specifying their training and rehab programme, the influence and support of ATM was quite significant.

“For us it was a big learning process as footballers, especially during the pre-season which happened in Spain. After the pre-season one of the physiotherapists associated with the ATM first team came over to stay here for three months. This ensured a good rehab regime for the team while minimising injuries to the players. In fact a large part of the support staff was drawn from ATM and that had a considerable influence on the team’s performance.

“It really was because of the back-up provided by the top-notch professionals associated with ATM that set ATK apart from the most of its opponents in the ISL. Winning two titles in three seasons definitely tells a lot about the superior technical support provided by the team’s Spanish partner.

“As a player, I always felt it a great experience to be working with professionals who play the game at the highest level. We came to imbibe a lot of things about modern football through that association. Particularly sharing the dressing room with the likes of Helder Postiga and others who previously played for top clubs in Europe, was something that I would always cherish.

“The level of consistency with which we played gave us the extra confidence in winning the matches in the knock-out stages where we definitely showed better fitness and made less mistakes compared to our opponents.”

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