Amongst the goalkeepers who have played a minimum of 180 minutes in the Indian Super League (ISL), only Kerala Blasters’ Stephen Bywater and FC Pune City’s Steve Simonsen have let in one goal. Delhi Dynamos’ Sanjiban Ghosh comes next with only two conceded in as many matches and a clean sheet to boast of.
While Bywater has had the luxury of having at least three foreign defenders ahead of him, Simonsen wasn’t made to sweat in the two games. Mind you, both Kerala and Pune have played Mumbai City FC and NorthEast United FC – two teams who have had one of the least number of shots on target.
On the other hand, Ghosh has faced the Indian Super League’s (ISL) two most attacking teams in Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa with 30 and 25 shots on target each in three matches.
Hailing from Andul in Howrah district, Ghosh took to the beautiful game as a 10-year-old when he would play without shoes.
“When we used to play football in my hometown back then, I don’t know why I would subconsciously just play as the last man and then as a goalkeeper. I just preferred playing between the posts and make saves. I would say it was instinctive,” Ghosh told Goal before his journey in the ISL kicked-off.
It was the Indian Football Association’s (IFA), the West Bengal’s governing body for football, Dukhiram Majumder Coaching Centre from Central Kolkata where he enrolled as a 14-year-old.
“It was then that I began playing with a shoe for the first time. I developed immensely in the camp. Three years later, I was signed by Southern Samity to play in the Calcutta League Super Division,” he reminisced.
Ghosh played a crucial role in the club’s triumph in Calcutta’s second tier league. The club appointed the legendary I.M.Vijayan as the coach but after a few months under the Keralaite, the goalkeeper was asked to attend a trial at Mumbai FC.
“Khalid (Jamil) Bhai had seen me in Kolkata. One of the players in Kolkata told me that the club are holding a trial in Mumbai and asked me to give it a try. I gave a week-long trial and Khalid Bhai told me to join. Then I came back to Kolkata to secure a release from Samity and since then I have been with Mumbai FC,” he mentioned.
For a player who idolizes Subrata Paul, who he grew up watching as a teenager, Ghosh charted his own programme for development at the Mumbai club.
Since Mumbai FC didn’t have a goalkeeper coach, Ghosh’s progress didn’t come to a halt.
His team-mates attest saying that if Mumbai FC have a practice session in the morning, Ghosh trains on his own in the evening or vice-versa.
Asked about the same, he said, “Khalid Bhai has been very supportive. It’s true that I practice on my own and especially in the summer when I return to my village is when I train the most under my coach Gopal Das. I believe that the more you practice, the more you improve. I also watch a lot of videos of Hugo Lloris and Oliver Kahn to learn a few tricks. One must always be willing to learn.”
He mentioned that his initial days at Mumbai FC were tough and that he found it difficult to acclimatize. However, it was Abhishek Yadav’s guidance and role as a mentor which helped him stabilize and get adjusted with life in Mumbai.
“I joined Mumbai FC and I had no idea about a lot of footballing aspects to be honest. I had no idea about the standard of the I-League as well. Abhishek Bhai came and spoke to me as a friend. He helped me improve tremendously with his words and advice. He would often guide me on certain aspects of my game which motivated me to work harder. I think in every club you need such senior figures who help youngsters acclimatize and offer advice on how to improve,” he stated.
Ghosh was surprised when he was named in the Indian national team squad for the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Oman by coach Stephen Constantine. This was after he watched his performance against Mohun Bagan where he was named Man of the Match in Mumbai for the string of saves which saw his side win a crucial point.
“This has been the biggest achievement in my career. I am grateful to Constantine Sir and Ramos Sir (goalkeeper coach) for giving me a chance to be in the India camp.
“Ramos Sir is very upfront and doesn’t shy from pointing your mistake. You tend to improve under such coaches. For example, he told me always try to grip the ball instead of trying to fist or palm it. You may think that these are basics but when training, you may not realize that you have been fisting even when you can easily grip the ball. When someone as experienced as him points it, you are made aware of the aspects you need to work on,” he explained.
The six feet two inch goalkeeper was called upon by Delhi Dynamos when Subhasish Roy Chowdhury and Ravi Kumar were injured and after giving a trial, he impressed marquee player-manager Roberto Carlos.
“During the trials, I made a couple of saves against Florent Malouda and Carlos Sir was happy with the performance. That gave me a lot of confidence. I wasn’t even in the draft and then Carlos Sir gave me a chance for which I am thankful,” Ghosh told Goal before the start of the ISL.
The 24-year-old custodian mentioned that had Khalid Jamil not signed him back in 2011, he wouldn’t have continued his career in football.
“I am eternally grateful to Khalid Bhai for giving me the chance as otherwise; I may not have become a footballer. Also to Abhishek Bhai for being my mentor throughout as life would have been very difficult in Mumbai. I am indebted to them,” said Ghosh as he looked ahead to his ISL sojourn.
And it’s fair to state that so far he hasn’t disappointed. In fact, he has earned plaudits.