ISL 2017/18: Bench-warmer at Mohun Bagan to regular at FC Pune City, the rise of Sarthak Golui

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How a loan move from Mohun Bagan to FC Pune City changed 20-year-old defender Sarthak Golui's fortune...

Sarthak Golui has been one of the standout performers for FC Pune City this season. Thanks to Serbian manager Ranko Popovic’s policy of handing out chances to young Indian players, the 20-year-old former Mohun Bagan defender has also got an opportunity to showcase his talent.

Sarthak got his primary lessons in football from his father before joining Bally AC - a club that has produced the likes of former Indian Olympics team captain Samar (Badru) Banerjee and Satyajit Chatterjee, However, he later moved to Uttarpara and  is one of the most prominent names to have come out of the academy of Bastab Roy, who is now a part of the Atletico de Kolkata coaching staff.

Golui was not a part of the Indian Super League (ISL) player draft this year and thus wasn’t a part of the Pune City squad initially. He started the season with Mohun Bagan in the Calcutta Football League (CFL). Coach Sankarlal Chakraborty, who was in charge of the side at that time, preferred new signing Arijit Bagui, who came from local side Peerless SC, over Sarthak, who has been a part of the Bagan squad for more than a season.

Bagui’s impressive show on the right side of the backline limited Golui’s opportunities in a Mohun Bagan shirt and with the presence of Abhishek Das, who joined the side from Chennai City FC and former Pailan Arrows defender Gurjinder Kumar, it was always going to be difficult for the youngster to get regular game time.

But he did play for the India U23 side in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers in 2017 and made two appearances. 

During mid-September, just before the ISL sides began their pre-season training, FC Pune City roped in Sarthak on loan for the 2017/18 season. It was an opportunity for young Sarthak to be a part of an ISL side but there was a fair chance that he would once again warm the bench, as he used to during I-League 2016/17 season at Bagan.

The defender was a part of Sanjoy Sen’s Mohun Bagan side in I-League last season but failed to make a single appearance for the club in the league. Primarily a centre-back, it was always going to be difficult for the youngster to break into the starting XI which had Brazilian Eduardo Ferreira and India international Anas Edathodika. Thus, the AIFF Elite Academy graduate’s chances were only limited to AFC Cup matches.

Sarthak Golui

Surprisingly, Ranko Popovic decided to start Golui as a right-back in Pune’s opening ISL match against Delhi Dynamos. Thereafter, the Indian defender went on to play 14 matches for the side in the league stage out of which he started in 10. He played 1009 minutes in the league so far and has scored one goal.

On getting an opportunity to play for the Stallions,  the defender said, "I was in Mohun Bagan but there were other big names in the side so I did not get enough game time. Then I got an offer from FC Pune City. Initially, I didn’t think I’ll get to play so many matches for the club. But I was ready to give my best. Our coach (Ranko Popovic) trusted me and I could play so many matches (14). So far it has been a great journey."

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Sarthak has been one of the finds of ISL 2017/18 season. Under Popovic, he has blossomed to be one of the best Indian defenders in the ongoing season. He is already in Indian national team coach Stephen Constantine’s radar and has been a part of the Indian squad on quite a few occasions in the past.

Speaking about his ambitions of playing for the national team, Sarthak said, "I am trying my best and giving my hundred percent every day and trying to improve my game. Now if the coach (Stephen Constantine) thinks that I am worthy of being a part of the Indian side, I will try my best. It is obviously my dream to represent the country."

With the Asian Cup coming up in a year’s time, the young defender will look forward to continuing his good form at the domestic level and consolidate his place in the Indian side.

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