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The East Bengal defender mentioned that too much rotation at the back in the first half of the season didn't help their title chances...

East Bengal’s Arnab Mondal was pleased on being nominated in the Fans’ Player of the Year category at the Football Players Association of India’s (FPAI) annual Indian Football awards. McDowells No.1 Soda are the principal sponsors of the event.

“The players toil on the field to get some recognition at the end of the day. I feel great to be nominated amongst few of the popular players of the nation, that too in the FPAI awards,” he told Goal on Saturday evening, fresh from winning the Indian Player of the Year amongst the Kolkata clubs awarded by the Calcutta Sports Journalist Club.

With Uga Okpara’s injury, a lot of the responsibility fell on Mondal’s shoulders and the player has done a credible job.

“The injury of Uga proved to be vital. Once again, we couldn’t snatch the title after going so close. In his absence, I had to lead but the likes of Saumik (Dey) and Raju (Gaikwad) also are very experienced. Robert (Lathlaamuana) also got decent playing time this season. To control things without a natural leader like Uga has certainly taught me a few lessons,” he remarked.

The Indian international was frank enough to agree that too much rotation in the defense line in the first half of the season took its toll on the team.

“We failed to settle down. Sometimes Uga and Gurwinder Singh were playing; sometimes it was Raju and me. All kinds of combinations were tested and that made us concede goals in the opening few matches of the season. If you remember, we had kept 9 clean sheets in our opening 10 matches last season, but failed to start this campaign on similar note. However, we improved and the co-ordination became better with time,” Mondal said.

He also sounded impressed by the new generation of defenders from Kolkata who are making a name for themselves.

“Abhishek (Das), Pritam (Kotal), Shouvik (Ghosh), Narayan (Das); all of them are very promising. They all have the talent to serve Indian football for long time. I have played with Abhishek this year and he has brilliant anticipation and is technically sound. He will get more matured with time and look more solid at the back,” he mentioned.

When quizzed about the strikers he found hard to keep at bay, he instantly took Mumbai FC striker Yusif Yakubu’s name.

“This year, the strikers always came heavy against us and there was little leisure provided by them. As always, Yakubu was the hardest to deal with followed by Ranti Martins, who impressed with his turning and positioning in the last match we played against Rangdajied United. Among the new faces, Kim Song Yong of Rangdajied also looked very dangerous. Speaking about the Indian strikers, Sunil (Chhetri) and Balwant (Singh) looked in fine touch.”

Mondal who could be named in the Asian Games camp as one of the three senior members (over the age of 23) stated that playing for the national team gives a different feeling altogether.

“Donning the national jersey is the best feeling and I hope to remain in the reckoning of the team for as long as possible. Whichever club I play for, I will always give my best,” he signed off.

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