Deepak Tangri, as a footballer, has grown exponentially over the last one and a half years. After four years with the Indian Arrows and Chennaiyin FC, the 22-year-old has completed a dream return to the Mariners having played for the Kolkata giants before while with the Mohun Bagan SAIL Academy. In the last couple of months, Tangri has earned a lot of appreciation for the magnificent AFC Cup performance with ATK Mohun Bagan, followed by a commendable showing with the Indian U23 team in the AFC qualifiers. The new ISL season is approaching fast, and Tangri is expected to be one of the first names on the line up for Habas’ team.
Deepak Tangri, in an exclusive interview with IFTWC, spoke about his time with ATK Mohun Bagan, his stint with the Indian Arrows, and his time with the India U23 side in the AFC qualifiers.
A brilliant personal AFC Cup campaign followed by another impressive stint with India U23. Has this been the perfect build-up to the new ISL season?
Obviously, like in case of the AFC U23 Qualifiers, it was a new exposure for all of us. It was a great test as well and we managed to do well. We were together for a long time so we knew each other very well. We knew what to do and I believe it will really help us in the upcoming season.
The Indian team was jubilant after defeating Kyrgyzstan on penalties. Did the team know before that they would not be able to qualify due to the AFC rules or was it known afterwards?
To be honest, we did not know. We were just giving our best in the match. After fulltime, we headed back to the dressing room and then we were informed that there was going to be a penalty shootout. We believed in ourselves and that we could do our best. Then, after a few days, we learned that we weren’t going to qualify for the next round, but I think it’s okay since it’s just a part of life.
You have played in various positions on the field, such as right back, center back, and in the midfield. Which position do you personally enjoy playing at the most?
When I started playing football, I used to play as a stopper or a center-back, and to be honest I prefer playing in the same position as I am more comfortable there. But it is completely up to the coach and where he wants to put me in and I always try to give my best no matter which position I am playing at.
Your last season with Chennaiyin was a success, where you were liked by the fans and the coach alike. Why did you choose ATK Mohun Bagan as the next step in your career? Was it the project or the opportunity to rejoin your childhood club?
ATK Mohun Bagan is a team which wants to win trophies and I want to do the same. I wanted to come to this champion team and I believe that it is a great opportunity to be able to train with players like Roy bhai and everyone else. So I made the decision to come here. I like the coach and the style of play he implements. I think it suits me and so I decided to grab this opportunity.
You have played for the Mohun Bagan youth team before. How does it feel to wear the iconic green and maroon shirt again?
It is a very satisfying feeling. Every footballer dreams of playing for ATK Mohun Bagan and I am thankful to God for giving me this opportunity. It is a great feeling.
You scored a goal in a Kolkata derby when you were with the U18 team. There was a huge crowd despite it being a youth game. How hard will it be to play such an iconic game like the derby away from Kolkata in an empty stadium?
Obviously from the last year we have been playing in empty stadiums without fans and away from our home and it is very difficult. We, the players, get motivated when the fans are present in the stadium and they shout and scream their support for us. It is very tough but I just want to say that please keep supporting us from your homes. We are going to do well and we will give our best for you guys.
At ATK Mohun Bagan you are playing in the midfield with Lenny Rodrigues. How much do you think playing with such an experienced international will help you improve aspects of your own game?
Yes, it is really amazing. I get to learn a lot of things from Lenny Bhai. He is a very experienced player and has played football for a long time. He is a great guy both on and off the field and you get to learn a lot of things from him. He motivates me to give my best on the field and it’s great.
Given the absence of Sandesh Jhingan in ATK Mohun Bagan, there is a great opportunity for youngsters like you to consolidate a spot in the backline but still there will be a lot of competition since the team is stacked with talents. How do you see this competition and how do you plan to stand out from the crowd of talented players at Bagan?
Yes, it is true that we have quite a lot of competition here but I think it is a positive thing. Competition helps us to improve and pushes us to give our best in every minute of training and fight for the spot. It’s great for young players especially and it’s good personally to be in this challenge. I will work hard for everything and give my best during the training sessions. It depends on God and the coach if they are going to put me in the team or not. I strive to give the best everywhere.
Having been someone who has gone through the Indian Arrows setup, how much do you think its reinstatement has improved the situation of youngsters in India?
Indian Arrows was a big opportunity for us to grow as a player and get the experience of playing in the I-League. We were at a very young age but we were provided with the chance to play with experienced senior players and foreigners via the Indian Arrows. With them, we got a lot of exposure to foreign countries, which helped with our progress. It was great.
After the big defeat in the AFC Cup, what was the mood like in the camp?
I think we did well in that game. The team gave its full effort in every game in the AFC Cup but it was just not our day against Al Nasaf. That’s how it goes sometimes. We were happy and we were proud that we did so well. We were together throughout and that is the main thing according to me.
Are you optimistic about the team’s ability to bounce back?
The coach and everyone are fully motivated and we know that we can bounce back. We are taking our games step by step and we can give our best in each of them if we keep believing in ourselves.
What are your personal objectives for the new season?
Obviously, as a player, I want to play in every game this season and the main objective will be to gain more experience. I got some significant game time last season and I want to build on that.
Deepak Tangri is expected to be one of the key players for ATK Mohun Bagan this season and the 22-year-old will play a crucial role in their title challenge. Staying in the mix with players like Joni Kauko, Hugo Boumous, and Roy Krishna at Bagan will only help Tangri to develop and progress further in his career. Bagan will face Kerala Blasters on 19th November in their opening ISL fixture.
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