Sarthak Golui opens up about being in lockdown, his time with Mumbai City FC and the respect he has for Sunil Chhetri.

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Mumbai City FC defender, Sarthak Golui, like every other footballer, is eager to return on the field once the world goes back to normal. At a time when India is under a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Golui, in an Instagram Live interaction with SportsAdda, opened up about the challenges of keeping up with the fitness, and how he’s utilising the time with his family.

Golui, who played 13 matches for his club in the 2019/20 season of the Indian Super League (ISL), was one of the key members of Jorge Costa’s surge. Despite missing a few games due to injury, the defender, who can play as a centre-back as well as a right-back, ended his season with 46 tackles, 20 interceptions, 113 clearances and 29 blocks.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone around the globe and not only for India,” said the 22-year-old, who is following in the footsteps of his father.

“As an athlete, we need to take care of our own fitness and now that we are not allowed to go out, we are all trying our best to do everything at our home with whatever equipment we have.

“More than that, the staff of our club (Mumbai City FC), the doctors, and the physios, they are all helping us brilliantly. They have a schedule prepared for us and we’re following that.”

After more than two months of being in lockdown, Golui says he’s missing football to the core and added that although he has some plans already in the pipeline, the first thing he’ll do is to play football.

“I had a lot of plans before the lockdown, especially with the family. But the first thing I’ll do is to go to the ground and play a game of football with my friends.”

How much are you missing live matches? Have you found an alternative to it?

I’m not into gaming that much to be honest. And given that I’m the only child, I’m helping my mother with the household chores. I’m also trying my hand at cooking. I do know how to cook, but I’m trying to be perfect.

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Happy mother’s day❤️Maa❤️

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Your dad too was a football player too. Is he your biggest critic?

Well, you see the first thing I do after every match is to call my dad, and he usually begins with what I did wrong in the game. He sometimes pinpoints things which even I don’t remember doing. Like, for example, he tells me 'you did this at in the x minute which was wrong.'

He’s very specific and particular about it.

Was being a defender your first choice?

Absolutely not! Growing up as a kid, we all want to score goals. I was the same. I loved being a striker. But as I developed a better understanding of the game, I figured I could be a good defender. And in that, my father, who was also a defender, as well as my coaches, helped me a lot.

I remember playing a local tournament as a kid where my team had no centre-back. So my coach asked me to fill in that position, and that was the first time I played in that area. I eventually started liking the position.

By that time, I was so conscious about my performances, given that I wasn’t scoring goals. But as I matured, I understood that a centre-back is an equally important player.

What is the most memorable moment of your MCFC career?

I remember when I signed for Mumbai City FC, the first training session was simply outstanding. The people at the club, including the coaches and the players, welcomed me with an open heart. Also, the first time I played for the club, in Kochi, against Kerala Blasters, is still an amazing memory because we won the game 1-0. Taking all three points against Kerala at their own turf was an achievement in itself.

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Winning Team💯New team.New goals💪🏼💪🏼 #Apunkateam🔵

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Tell us about your experience when you first saw yourself on TV playing for the Islanders?

You know, it’s always an amazing feeling; watching yourself on the TV. But more than that, thinking about knowing that people around the country are also watching you is simply unexplainable. It feels like I’ve achieved something very good in life.

How difficult was it for you to watch your team from the sidelines during your injury?

It’s never easy to cope with an injury, especially when you’re mid-way through the season. It was an important phase not just for me personally but for the team as well. You know, getting injured during a practice session was really tough, and it is the same with every athlete.

Knowing that you’re unavailable during the time your teams needs you the most is really disappointing. But in the end, I’m really thankful to the medical staff of the club, the officials and my teammates for motivating me and sending me messages.

Who do you think is your toughest opponent?

I’ve been a right-back for a majority of my time in the ISL. So, for me, (Sunil) Chhetri bhai and (Lallianzuala) Chhangte have been my toughest opponents so far. Especially in case of Chhetri bhai, I have to be smarter because in the back of your head, you know he's senior and has more experience than you.

But all bets are off when you’re on the field, and regardless of the seniority and the respect I have for him both on and off the field, you need to understand an opponent is an opponent during the game.

What are your thoughts about Ranbir Kapoor as the co-owner of the club?

He’s never actually acted as a boss, to be honest. But I appreciate the fact that regardless of his busy schedule, he sometimes manages to join us in our training sessions. Good times or bad times, he is always there to cheer us up.

How excited are you with the recent merger with the City Football Group?

It’s obviously a big thing for everyone involved at the club. And I think it is not only beneficial for Mumbai City FC, but it's equally advantageous for Indian football. We’re all excited about it and I believe things will be different from the next season.

A venture as big as the City Football Group will be continuously monitoring our performances, and it will be a great opportunity for everyone at the club. In a way, it will motivate us to perform even better because there's now a prospect of getting a chance to play in the west too.