Kolkata giants East Bengal roped in promising defender Koushik Sarkar on a three-year deal, hours after the 21-year old was included in the 40-member India national team squad for the upcoming SAFF Championship. The youngster has chosen the Red and Golds over Mohun Bagan, as Goal understands the defending I-League champions had also offered him a deal.
"It has been a great day. First I got to know about my name being included in the national team squad and then I signed a three-year deal with East Bengal," an elated Koushik told Goal.
The Chinsurah-born central defender, who had his first lessons of football under the tutelage of local coaches Chandan Dey and Sushanta Bhattacharya, had joined Sports Authority of India (SAI) in 2010 at an age of 16. After spending three seasons there, he moved to Kalighat Milan Sangha, where he made only a single appearance in the Calcutta Football League (CFL).
"I got to play only one match there. So I decided that money should not be my first priority and returned to SAI again," he mentioned.
The defender was the skipper of the Calcutta University side that emerged triumphant in the East Zone finals of the Inter-University championship last season. However, it was his twin performances against Mohun Bagan that brought him to the limelight.
Koushik stood tall when Sanjoy Sen's side notched up a laborious 1-0 win in a practice match against the University team before the start of last season's I-League. However, when he faced the Mariners a few months later in the league, he put in a strong performance at the back to earn his side a goalless draw against the century-old club - a display which helped in rising his stock at the Maidan.
"Unlike most other Indian defenders, Koushik uses his brain more than the physical aspect. This quality can make him one of the best defenders of the country in a few years. However, he is not that strong in headers and needs to work more on winning aerial duels," Trijit Das, a former Tata Football Academy (TFA) graduate who had played for East Bengal and had been the India U-16 captain, remarked about his former student.
Koushik will be joining East Bengal practice sessions this week before leaving for the India national team camp later this month.