A loan move to Pune and 14 first-team appearances (1009 league minutes) later, Golui has risen to one of the hottest prospects in the country.
Bengaluru: The Maratha Stallions are marching on. After three seasons mired in mid-table mediocrity and their apparent inability to finish higher than sixth in the Indian Super League, Ranko Popovich’s FC Pune City are absolutely buzzing.
Ahead of their maiden appearance in the ISL play-offs against Bengaluru FC, the dynamism of this well-meshed team of youngsters and seasoned campaigners has garnered much attention.
Among the list of reasons for which firebrand head coach Popovich has received plaudits, youth integration is right on top. 20-year-old defender Sarthak Golui is one of several benefactors of the Serbian coach’s braveness, emerging from the unknown and stepping into the limelight with several commanding performances.
A Mohun Bagan supporter in an East Bengal household, Golui created interest playing at the AIFF Elite Academy and figuring for the India U-19s before former Bagan manager Sanjoy Sen recruited him into The Mariners. While warming the bench watching and learning from more experienced counterparts Pritam Kotal and Anas Edathodika served him well, minimal game-time over two seasons left Golui frustrated.
A loan move to Pune and 14 first-team appearances (1009 league minutes) later, Golui has risen to one of the hottest prospects in the country. Popovich can claim much of the credit for jumpstarting Golui’s career.
“Ranko has put faith on me. He gave the youngsters chance to prove themselves. In no other team as many youngsters played as they have in Pune. So I’m happy that he believed in me and others and thought we could get the job done for him,” said Golui.
The 50-year-old Popovich had made it his mission to promote the club’s youth upstarts as with a view to developing the Indian national team’s emerging talent pool. With a workhorse like ethic, players like goalkeeper Vishal Kaith (21), Isaac Vanmalsawma (21), Ashique Kuruniyan (20), Rohit (21) and Sahil Panwar (18) have all played key roles during the season.
“I hope that I will someday (make my international debut). It has been great year in 2017. I played for U-23 and have been called for senior national team camp. So, let’s see if Constantine calls me again,” said a determined Golui.
The youngster regards centre-back as his native position on the pitch but has shown great versatility to figure as a right-back for Pune. Playing centrally takes a great of positional nuance and Golui is content with being a utility defender for now.
“In India, all the coaches want centre-backs to be experienced. So it’s difficult for the juniors. Most of the young CBs start as either RB or LB,” quipped the starlet, who regards John Terry and Sergio Ramos as his greatest influences.