Mihir Sawant’s footballing story is one of an underdog who managed to rise beyond every challenge that life threw at him. The 33-year-old from Pune overcame a life-threatening head injury to eventually carve a name for himself in Indian football by becoming the youngest AFC Goalkeeping Level-3 coaching license holder. He is currently the goalkeeping coach at I-League outfit Gokulam Kerala.
A regular hockey player in his formative years, Mihir’s acquaintance with goalkeeping happened by accident when he was tasked with playing under the bar for his local football team in the Santosh Iyer Memorial tournament. He went on to bag the ‘best goalkeeper of the tournament’ award and there was no looking back since. He then represented the Maharashtra U-19 and U-21 sides at just 18 years of age before signing for Dempo SC’s U-20 team.
Then in 2010 came the biggest turning point in his career. While playing in a tournament in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Mihir collided with the opposition striker and sustained a horrific head injury. Although the doctors were of the opinion that he shouldn’t play professional football again, he made his comeback soon after. However, the next three years were a struggle and he quickly realized that transitioning to a coaching role was probably the best bet to revitalize his footballing dream.
In 2013, he completed his C-License coaching badge and the FIFA Youth as well as Elite Goalkeeping course, flagging off a new start for himself. He then went on to work at Minerva Punjab, the Jamshedpur FC reserves side and at Churchill Brothers in Goa. All of these stints helped him improve as a coach and it was after his spell at Churchill that he decided to complete the AFC Goalkeeping Level-3 course. He was a part of the only batch that had appeared for the same in India and was the youngest in the group to pass the level at 32.
The offer from the Malabarians arrived soon after and Mihir was only too happy to join the 2019 Durand Cup winners. Currently helping his team face off against the likes of Mohammedan SC, Real Kashmir and Aizawl FC in the I-League, Mihir’s journey serves as a reminder to all that as long as you keep learning from your struggles and adverse periods, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.