Mohammad Rafique: ISL 2014's super-sub hero!

Mohammed Rafique who sealed the title for Atletico de Kolkata with a fantastic header in the last minute of the added time in the first ISL final in Navi Mumbai, in December 2014, says discipline, hard work and an excellent dressing room atmosphere fired the team to perform extraordinarily.

Mohammad Rafique

Mohammad Rafique (R) scored the winner for ATK in the 2014 final against Kerala Blasters. (file picture)   -  AFP

Mohammad Rafique is a name that is set in bold in the annals of the Indian Super League. He was the ‘Super Sub’ who sealed the title for Atletico de Kolkata with a fantastic header in the last minute of the added time in the final at Navi Mumbai, on December 20, 2014.

Recollecting the way ATK approached every game, Rafique says it was about discipline, hard work and an excellent dressing room atmosphere that fired the team to perform extraordinarily.

Here’s what he says: “We prepared for every match thinking it was the final. There was a lot of intensity in everything we did on the field. It was the inaugural season and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the tournament. We all tried to give our best, looking for a win in every match. Coach (Antonio) Habas also motivated us in that manner.

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“The team composition was outstanding with the presence of international stars like Luis Garcia, Borja Fernandes and Jofre Mateu. And there were outstanding Indian names like Arnab Mondal and Subhasish Roy Chowdhury among others. The team spirit was excellent with the seniors always lending a hand to the juniors.

“The dressing room atmosphere was warm and congenial. And Luis Garcia led the show. It was a great experience when Garcia discussed the game. He was a top-notch professional who had played alongside the best in the business. All that he said enlightened us on a lot of things about modern football.

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“Habas was a strict disciplinarian and never relaxed any rules for anyone in the team, however big he may be. This helped in giving the team a compact shape that eventually created the difference with other sides. This disciplined approach of Habas was greatly responsible in getting us the title.

“The best part of the side was the way we emerged stronger after every bad result. A team cannot keep winning all the matches. It is important to make a strong comeback after every setback. That was the way we approached the tournament and it brought us success ultimately.

“We doubled the hard work in the semfinals and the final. I would say discipline and hard work combined in strengthening our resolve to go for the title. The first ISL title will always remain special to me as my effort in the final sealed the trophy for us.”

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