New Delhi: Pailan Arrows and U-22 India stopper-back Prathamesh Maulingker aims to make the most out of his stint with Arrows as he moves to Dempo SC on a loan. In an interview with www.the-aiff.com, Prathamesh speaks his heart out about his sting with Arrows, its impact, contribution of Arrows to Indian Football, Coach Arthur Papas, his Dempo SC's childhood heroes and much more.
How do you reflect back on your journey with the Arrows?
It's about an initiative by All India Football Federation which invested in a rookie, trained, taught and guided him mature and made them footballers. It is because of Arrows, I am what I am today. There's no other way other than thanking them from the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much!
What was most memorable?
It's impossible to pin point one single incident. Everything has been so memorable, every moment. Like as it happens with all, I faced ups and lows in my career. But I was never dropped. Whenever I hit a low, I was taken special care of. In fact, not only me, but all of us!
The management could have easily dropped me from their plans but didn't. Rather, they invested and backed me to the hilt. That sort of confidence was so much essential for a young player like me. Or should I reiterate, for all of us. It helped us to showcase our talent.
Which aspect of Arrows will you carry with you?
The discipline! Indian Arrows and Pailan Arrows have been like an Academy. It stays the perfect stage to groom a player. We have developed our habits from it and learnt everything from there. It helped us to mature fast.
There are a lot of ex-Arrows boys who are big names in Indian Football. How do you describe that?
That was bound to happen. The Arrows were formed at a stage when we had nowhere to go. It was the transition phase, a phase which has killed the motivation of so many youngsters just for the lack of an opportunity to play.
In 2010 when Arrows were formed, some of us may have been roped in by clubs but it was on open secret they won't ever get a chance to play. Ever! In such a situation, Arrows gave us the perfect platform to play in the I-League. What more can you ask for? We were all U-19 boys at that time but we got to play regularly. And we played well, that too being a team without any foreign recruits. Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lalrindika Ralte, Raju Gaikwad, Jewel Raja Shaikh, Manandeep Singh, Bikramjit Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and we all, owe it to the Arrows. It shaped our careers.
What stayed your turning point?
I was a junior player when I first joined Arrows and obviously, I was not the first choice. But I waited for my chance. The U-22 AFC Qualifiers gave me a lot of confidence. It was my first International Tournament and when Coach Arthur Papas put his faith in me, I had to pay him back.
Playing against Iraq, UAE, Oman, Lebanon and other teams gave me a lot of confidence. It changed me as a player.
There has been a shift in the Coaching philosophy in Arrows. How do you describe that?
It wasn't easy. In fact, when Papas took over and showed to us what he wanted, we found it hard to believe we could play that way. If you look at the earlier years, though we performed well, we were groomed in a different fashion. Hence, we had our apprehensions.
But we realised fast Papas was stressing on the basics and henceforth, adapting was no more a problem. He stresses on modern-day football and we are enjoying it. I can tell you, we are getting better day by day. The football which we play is a breath of fresh air.
What do you expect from defending champions Dempo SC?
The gesture from Arrows floored me. The moment I received an offer from Dempo SC, they realised it will benefit me in the long run (at this stage) and responded fast and released me. I need to thank them for that too. From my side, all I can say is that I'm ready for the next step. I will carry my experience and work culture and blend them with the Dempo philosophy.
I know, I may not get a start immediately but I will wait for my chance and prove myself whenever I get it. It's a dream come true to be playing alongside Mahesh Gawli, Sameer Naik and Climax Lawrence, all of whom have been my childhood heroes.