They say the future of Indian football is exciting. We decided to have a closer look at one of the most talented prospects in the country to know more.
Currently playing in the reserve squad of the ISL franchise Mumbai City FC, Sahil Rathod is one for the future. Our conversation took us through a lot of different topics, such as life as a youth player, the keys to success as a player of the game, and his own story making it to one of the biggest clubs in the country.
Sahil wears the number 31 shirt for his team and plays in goal. The reserve team is just a level below the first team, so there’s a really good chance you’re going to see him break into the starting eleven soon!
The Start of My Football Training
“My mother is a very passionate football fan. Her favorite team is Germany. She knows the names of all the players on the pitch, and she got me into football. I used to watch matches on the TV with my grandfather as well when I went to my native place.”
“I started my football career when I was 11. I used to first train at the Baichung Bhutia Football Academy in Delhi around 2014-15. I then joined the Football School of India before joining the Mumbai City FC squad in the 2018-2019 season.”
“My family has always been very supportive of my passion for football since the very beginning. They are the pillars of my success. In the beginning of my playing days, they used to come and watch me train.”
“Back when I just started training, my father’s office was really close to the training camp. He used to come and watch my games regularly. He’s my number one fan and also my harshest critic. It’s a blessing to have such supportive parents.”
“They have always been there cheering me on during my most important games. I never felt their absence even when I had matches outside of my home state of Maharashtra. Their support is the main reason that I’ve reached wherever I am.”
Life as a Youth Player at Mumbai City FC
“I joined the club in the 2018-19 season, and it has been a dream come true for me. I’m playing for the biggest club in Mumbai, and one of the biggest teams in the country. My experience here has been wonderful.”
“Everything is very professional at the club. We train six days a week, and we’re lucky to get a day off. Even if we don’t, it isn’t really a bad thing because all of us at the youth team are so passionate about the sport.”
“The guidance of the coaches and all the people behind the scenes was something that was very new to me. Things like professionalism and discipline are the backbone of a professional footballer, and have been some of the most important lessons I’ve learned here.”
“One of my favorite things about the club is the masterclasses that you get from the Indian legends of football.”
“My best memory on the pitch has to be against the youth team of Leicester City FC, where we drew against them 0-0. I saved a penalty, and it was one of my best games for the club, and I won the man of the match. We defied a lot of stereotypes in that game.”
“Sometimes the players from the first team come to our training and give us tips on improving our game as well. Raynier Fernandez is one of the best first-team players for me because he’s so nice to be around.”
Influences and Favorites
“If I were to speak as a football fan, then Manchester City is my favorite club. I love the way they play and their winning mentality.”
“In terms of favorite players, it has to be Iker Casillas. He defied a lot of expectations and went on to become one of the best goalkeepers in the history of football, starting against the biggest teams in Europe at only 19 years old. He wasn’t the tallest, but his amazing saves and his leadership quality at the back make him special.”
“I watch his matches and his highlights before games to inspire myself and to re-ignite my love for the game from time to time. He made world-class saves in high-intensity games and won the Champion’s League for Real Madrid He has played a very important role in my development.”
“A lot of people say that if you’re under six feet tall, you’re not going to be a good goalkeeper. But Casillas was under six feet, and he was absolutely world-class when he played. He had perfect reflexes, perfect timing, and perfect distribution.”
“I used to watch all of his matches even when he moved to Porto, and he has always inspired me with his work on the field.”
Busting Myths About Being a Goalkeeper
For people who grew up playing football barefoot on the street, the chubby kid who didn’t really know what to do with a ball was always the goalkeeper. However, Sahil strongly disagrees.
“The goalkeeper is the backbone of any team. It is his responsibility to sort out the defense and to command the players at the back. Goalkeepers have to be the fittest person in the team, and always on top of their game. If the goalkeeper makes an error, the team concedes, and it’s never a good thing.”
According to Sir Alex Ferguson himself, only a good defense can win you titles. The commander of that defense is the goalkeeper. So it’s no surprise that the best teams in the world also have the best goalkeepers.
Importance of a Good Mentality in Football
“Being calm and composed is really important in football. It’s really crucial that you have the mindset of coming in and dominating the game from the very start. Following a disciplined lifestyle is also something that’s necessary.”
“You have to make decisions very fast, and you have to adapt to the game. 90 minutes is a long time and the aggressiveness is something that you have to change depending on how your team plays.”
The Importance of Match Treatment
“Recovery is something that’s really important before a game. You can’t train hard every day. Before a match, we have recovery sessions that are basically meant to relax your body for the game the next day. We jog a little, have massages, and relax.”
“We follow a very disciplined lifestyle, and everything is specified by the physiotherapists. The pre-match and post-match treatment is really important in ensuring that you don’t get injured.”
“After the game, we get a video match analysis so that we correct our mistakes. The coaches specify your role beforehand and tell you where you went wrong after the game. We have to try and improve every single day.”
The Comparison of Indian Football With European Football
When asked about the things that make the European teams so good, Sahil had a lot of great points to make.
“I think the main thing that sets them apart is experience. They start playing professionally when they’re 5 or 6. By the time they’re teenagers, they have a lot of experience under their belt. You don’t really get that in India because of the way the Indian society works. They’re tactically more sound there, and they’re also more aggressive. However, India also has a great history of great defenders and goalkeepers.”
“If we introduced the kids to football academies at a younger age, then it would make a big difference. We also need the learners to be serious, for the coaches to develop the youth. ISL is a great way to grow the football culture all across the country. If the youth gets proper guidance, then there’s a great chance that India might even play the World Cup in the next few years. If the players get the right guidance and we work hard, then we might even compete with the big European clubs someday.”
“The knowledge of nutrition and an athlete’s lifestyle is something that is very important for the development of youth players, and it is overlooked mainly because of the lack of knowledge at a very young age.”
“We need Indian coaches to learn as well, There’s no point in having foreign coaches all the time. That blocks the growth of the Indian coaches. We need them to be great as well.”