FIFA U-17 World Cupper Abhijit Sarkar looks to renew rivalries in ISL


NEW DELHI, Nov 23: Wiser after spending three seasons in senior division, former FIFA U-17 World Cupper Abhijit Sarkar is looking to use the experience against his fellow players in his maiden Indian Super League outing.

Sarkar is about to begin his maiden season in the ISL for Chennaiyin FC at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco on Tuesday.

The young playmaker has steadily progressed through the ranks from the AIFF Elite Academy to Indian Arrows, followed by a stint in East Bengal last season, before finally arriving at Chennaiyin for the current campaign.

“It’s a new team for me. So it took some time for me to adjust to the new staff and new teammates. But day by day, I have become comfortable with everyone, as all my teammates have been very accommodating,” said Sarkar.

“We are sweating it out every day, and I’m really excited about the start of the Hero ISL,” he said in an AIFF release.

The 20-year-old has fond memories with his former India U-17 and Indian Arrows teammates, many of whom have themselves signed for different ISL sides.

Sarkar highlighted a kind of brotherhood that has developed between the players, who spent years playing exposure matches in preparation for the U-17 World Cup in 2017, followed by two seasons at the Indian Arrows.

While some of the former Arrows players like Deepak Tangri, Samik Mitra and Aman Chetri will be joining Sarkar at Chennaiyin this season, it will be a different matter when these “brothers” square off against other former Arrows cadets who are now playing for other sides.

“Of course, when we are playing against each other, we are all enemies,” laughed Sarkar.

“During a game, you don’t see who is your friend. We are all friends off the pitch, and we all keep in touch. But there’s no love lost during the match.”

While the 20-year-old has already gained the unique experience of playing in a World Cup, followed by three seasons in senior football, competing while staying inside a COVID-safety bubble will be a different thing altogether.

“This is a new experience, not just for me, but for everyone inside the bubble. Being in the bubble and the quarantine is something that we are all getting used to. But the focus is on football when we train,” said Sarkar.

“So despite everything that’s happening around us, we keep improving every day on the training pitch. This is my first time in the Hero ISL, so I am doubly focused on improving my game and proving myself.” (PTI)