ISL: Chennaiyin FC's Sajal Bag eyes redemption for missed penalty
As a part of our ISL Spotlight series, we speak to Kolkata lad Sajal Bag of Chennaiyin FC, as he looks to start afresh after the costly miss at the Santosh Trophy.
Missing a penalty is part and parcel of the game. However, missing one in the final of the Santosh Trophy can come back to bite you. Sajal Bag of Chennaiyin FC knows just the feeling. The Chennaiyin FC fledgling midfielder hopes to put his demons to rest with the 2022-23 season of the Indian Super League.
After extra time, the score was 1-1 between Kerala and Bengal in the 2022 Santosh Trophy final. In the penalty shootout, both sides' first attempts were converted. Then, Bengal's No.12, Sajal Bag, stepped up and put his shot wide off the target. Kerala went on to win the final 5-4 on penalties.
"I was broken after that miss. We had worked so hard and because of me, Bengal couldn't lift the trophy. I started to wonder whether any team would take me after this!" Sajal opened up.
Despite his teammates and coach brushing the incident off as being "part of the game", that night was difficult for the teen. However, a move to ISL club Chennaiyin was not far away for the Kolkata lad. Had he redeemed himself with the move and performance at the Durand Cup?
"It's not like I'm holding on to that moment. It's difficult to completely forget an incident like that. Now, I just want to look forward and do good in whatever I do," he said.
The central midfielder had made it clear to his agent that he would want to move to a club where they give youngsters importance.
"In team meetings during the Durand Cup, the coach (Thomas Brdaric) used to tell me to do what I knew, not do anything extra-ordinary. I just have to do whatever the coach asks me to," Sajal concluded.
The Thapa-Bag pivot
Marina Machans and football fans alike sang praises of the duo consisting of Anirudh Thapa and Sajal during the Durand Cup. The pair shone brightly whenever they combined on the pitch for Chennaiyin.
Bag was said to occupy the deeper role which allowed Thapa the freedom to move up the pitch. Hence the two goals and three assists in five appearances for the skipper. Sajal too racked up an assist in the process.
"Be it on the field or off, Thapa bhai understands me well. Even if I make a mistake, he supports me. All of them do," the 19-year-old said.
Growing up in Garia
The Messi fan grew up in the lanes of Garia in Kolkata, West Bengal. As any other football-crazy kid in the City of Joy, Sajal too started playing in his para (locality).
The next stop was Mohun Bagan academy, where Sajal was joined by his elder brother Ujjal, who is trying to make it professional in the sport as well.
"Problems at home were there, and continue to be there, but my family always supported me and urged me to play my game," Bag commented on his humble, middle-class background.
Sajal during his Mohun Bagan days
After impressing at the Mariners camp and winning their 'Best Youth Player' award in the 2019-20 season, he moved on to BSS Sporting club where he played in the Calcutta Football League. It was during this stint when the youngster got his Santosh Trophy call.
Interestingly, Mohammad Fardin, who was part of the Bengal team and also played in the Durand Cup for ATK Mohun Bagan, is Sajal's childhood friend. Both started their footballing journeys at the Mohun Bagan academy.