Playing in the Indian Super League (ISL) is a great platform to catalyse the dreams of Indian youngsters vying for a chance to play in football leagues across the globe, says ATK Mohun Bagan defender Sumit Rathi.
In his debut season in India's top-flight football league, Rathi won the ISL Emerging Player award, previously won by the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Jeje Lalpekhua, Sahal Abdul Samad, among others. Rathi made 14 appearances for 2019-20 ISL champions ATK, who will be now known as 'ATK Mohun Bagan' after its merger with Mohun Bagan.
"I think playing in ISL is a great thing for every young player, your confidence level goes up, your technical level goes up. You always feel proud to play whenever you are on the pitch. It is a great launchpad for young players like me who dream to someday play abroad," Rathi told a sports website.
The 18-year-old believes he could catch the eyes of foreign clubs better if he keeps delivering consistently in the ISL. However, the youngster seemed cautious about making any premature decisions.
"For any Indian player, playing in Europe or any of Asia's top leagues is an incredible opportunity. But I think that decision has to be very important - when, where, and which league you should play in, you have to take the right decision as a player. I have not thought about it yet, I have just started but certainly, if I get a chance to play in Europe or a top Asian league, it will be a big thing for me," he said.
Rathi made it clear that ATK Mohun Bagan are looking to add a continental piece of silverware in the upcoming season. The three-time ISL champions will enter the 2021 AFC Cup in the qualifying rounds and Rathi is looking forward to the challenge.
"The AFC Cup and AFC Champions League are two of the biggest events and obviously, they are extremely competitive. There will be experienced sides who play high-quality football. I think this is a very big opportunity for ATK Mohun Bagan. As a team, we want to win the cup", he said.
"Moreover, in these tournaments, you get a chance to show your talent in front of the best Asian clubs. Overall, this is a very big event where you can take your club and your country forward," Rathi added.