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ISL 2019-20: Hard work and determination key to Prabir Das’ revival this season

10:54 PM EST 2/29/20
ATK vs Kerala Blasters Prabir Das Halicharan Narzary
The ATK defender has been one of the best Indian players in the ongoing ISL 2019-20 season…

Prabir Das has been a revelation for ATK in the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 season. Under a new coach and a new formation, it has been a rebirth for the versatile Bengali player.

Das rose to fame at Mohun Bagan and was an integral part of the Green and Maroon side which won the I-League and the Federation Cup between 2014-2017.

The defender in between had played for FC Goa, Delhi Dynamos and ATK and was equally successful in the ISL. In fact, he was an important part of Jose Molina’s league-winning ATK side in 2016.

Unfortunately during ATK’s pre-season training in Spain last season, Das had suffered a serious knee injury and was sidelined for the entire season.

At the pinnacle of his career, such injuries are detrimental. But the former Mohun Bagan player did not lose heart and instead worked hard and underwent a rigorous rehabilitation program in Bengaluru and Chennai for seven months and 1 month respectively.

Recalling his injury-stricken period, Prabir told Goal how he prepared himself mentally and thanked his mother for providing him with mental support that helped him overcome the challenge.

“I had to prepare myself mentally. It was a huge setback for me not playing for a year. My mother had told me that she was concerned whether I could make a comeback after my knee surgery but I assured her that I will come back. So my mother was a big inspiration for me in coming back strongly.

“Of course, there are several other things that can motivate a player. For a footballer, surgeries are very common but it was a challenge for me to come back from there. But I was never depressed during the injury. I worked hard and happily, came back from there.”

After coming back from injury it was indeed a challenge for Das to find a place in the starting lineup. But he trained hard during the pre-season and even played competitive matches in the Durand Cup, representing his club’s reserve side.

“I am thankful to ATK that they told me to play in the Durand Cup. I was not sure about playing at that time. In fact, I was scared to play competitive matches and I was struggling to complete 90 minutes. I played three full matches and to be honest I was not at my best fitness but once the pre-season started I worked hard.”

Antonio Habas deployed a 3-5-2 formation in ATK from the beginning of the season and Prabir was an integral part of that system.

For the first time in his career, Das played as a right wing-back and has done a marvellous job for the club so far. In the 17 league matches he has played, Prabir completed 418 passes and put in 51 crosses and has accounted for three assists.

The ATK defender’s biggest strength is his pace which has been harnessed by Habas. He has been a livewire on the right flank for the Kolkata club. The 26-year-old mentioned that during his rehab, he used to request his trainers to make sure that he doesn’t lose his speed post the surgery.

“I may not have many individual qualities but one thing I can do is run fast and work hard. I always make sure that my pace doesn’t go down. I worked closely with my trainers and showed them my videos and told them to guide me so that I don’t lose my pace. I was ready to do anything for that.”

Prabir has been rightly rewarded for his fantastic performance this season as recently national team coach Igor Stimac called up the defender to the 43-man preliminary Indian squad ahead of the World Cup qualifying game against Qatar.

But the ATK man is focused on winning the ISL trophy at the moment. “I am very happy that I got a call from the national team coach, but currently I am only thinking about the semifinals,” said Prabir Das on his national team selection.

It has been a dream season for Prabir Das who reinvented himself under Habas. Now, he will have a challenge on his hands as ATK prepare to take on Bengaluru FC.