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Indian Football Team of the Year 2020 – Right centre back: ATK Mohun Bagan’s Pritam Kotal

Indian Football Team of the Year 2020 – Right centre back: ATK Mohun Bagan’s Pritam Kotal
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By

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 30 Dec 2020 10:00 AM GMT

The erstwhile ATK’s dominance in the Indian Super League (ISL) in the 2019-20 season was as much about their counter-attacking displays as it was about their defensive solidity. One man who was the face of the latter department was Pritam Kotal. The 27-year-old from Uttarpara in West Bengal was an indomitable pillar for the side throughout the season as he played every minute of the campaign.

The India international first burst onto the scene playing for Pailan Arrows in the I-League. After the club was disbanded, he moved to Mohun Bagan and helped them win the 2015 I-League. His ISL sojourn started with Pune City before pit stops at ATK and Delhi Dynamos came his way. Upon his return to ATK in early 2019, he finally got a chance to nail down a starting position under Antonio Lopez Habas.

https://twitter.com/atkmohunbaganfc/status/1333001229895516163

The Spaniard used him as a right-sided centre back in a back three last season and Kotal excelled in that role. He ended the season with the third-highest number of tackles amongst Indian defenders in the league (71) in 21 matches. He also got an extremely important goal against fellow title challengers FC Goa in the league stages. His performances earned him a two-year contract with the newly merged ATK Mohun Bagan.

Since signing on the dotted line, his stock has increased considerably this season following a number of consistent displays. Many would have thought that he would have had to make way to accommodate the newly signed Sandesh Jhingan but his discipline and intelligence at the back has ensured that he stays an important part of the Mariners’ back line. Having featured in all seven of his matches so far, he has looked equally comfortable in a back three and as a right back in a conventional back four.

The 2015 SAFF Championship winner already has 27 tackles, 12 interceptions, 31 clearances and 10 blocks this season apart from an impressive 70% passing accuracy in a side that mostly plays on the counter. Moreover, the authority that he has in the defensive third and the respect that he commands from his teammates is what makes him one of the best Indian defenders this past year. It is this dependability and versatility that makes his inclusion a no-brainer in The Bridge’s Indian Football Team of the Year.

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