The midfielder claims he let go of an offer to join East Bengal while on trials with Hyderabad FC…
From an average of playing around 20 matches during his three years at Sporting Clube de Goa where Pratesh Shirodkar started his senior career, it came down to merely six matches over a span of three seasons at FC Goa until 2019. In the 2017-18 and 2018-19, he played just 21 minutes in the Indian Super League (ISL) cumulatively.
The 36-year-old spoke about his recent struggles that literally left him without a club to play first team football last season before he looks to ressurect his career having agreed to sign for I-League club Real Kashmir.
“Last year, I couldn’t play anywhere because I went to Hyderabad FC and was there for trials for around a month. The coach (Phil Brown) said that he will sign me. I played so many practice matches and did well also,” he narrated.
“When Adil (Khan) told him (Brown) about me, he called me for trials and told me on the first day itself, ‘If I like you, I will sign you in three days’. I was there for a month waiting for him to sign me and missed an offer from East Bengal also who wanted to sign me for two years because I had thought that it is better to play in the ISL than the I-League.
“Then I had to wait for the next transfer window but it did not work out and I only got to join Dempo for a training stint,” Shirodkar admitted.
Pratesh had his share of good times right from the age of 13 when he joined Calangute-based Goa United Sports Academy before being selected to hone his skills as a midfielder at the Sesa Football Academy in 2007.
“I started playing for Goa United Sports Academy from U-14 till U-20 when I was at school. At that time, Goa United wanted to put all the players who played for them at St. Joseph’s school but I played for them from my own school (Little Flower of Jesus High School, Calangute). From there, I played nationals for Goa and then got selected for the Sesa Football Academy.”
After five years at Sesa, which included three seasons playing in the Goa Professional League, Shirodkar joined Sporting Clube de Goa in 2012 and won the local top division twice that helped him gain the favour of then Flaming Oranje coach Oscar Bruzon. The Spaniard was on his way to the Indian Super League (ISL) as Nicolas Anelka’s assistant at Mumbai City FC in 2015.
“Because of Oscar, I came to Mumbai City,” the Goan acknowledged. “It (the ISL) is on another level if you compare it to the I-League. I think ISL is the best platform for all the players who are coming up because you get to learn a lot of things. In I-League also you get to learn something new but in ISL, you get better facilities and even when the new coaches come, you get to learn a lot more.”
After a season with the Islanders, he returned to the coastal state on-loan to Sporting Goa before being signed by FC Goa in 2016. However, after just three appearances, in the January 2017 transfer window, he was loaned out to I-League outfit Mumbai FC where he clocked nearly four times the minutes (994) he would garner with the Gaurs (256) in three seasons combined.
“The journey was good but I couldn’t play much (at FC Goa) because of injuries. I didn’t get much time on the pitch,” Shirodkar explained.
“Even the coach (Sergio Lobera, former FC Goa coach), when we had gone for the pre-season in Spain (2018), he used to play me as a right back or some other position but never in midfield. Even the few minutes that I played, I played in the right back or right half positions. I don’t have anything against the coach, he was very good and he had his own strategies.
“I think the biggest competition I faced was my own height. I think the coach didn’t prefer me to play in the midfield because of my height. Otherwise, there was no other issue. That (5.1 metres height) was the problem,” he felt.
Former Sporting Goa coach Oscar Bruzon was extremely complimentary when talking about Shirodkar, explaining how the midfielder provided balance to his team.
“He (Shirodkar) was a player that was always giving consistency to my defensive stage, positioning himself ahead of the center backs. [Shirodkar was] energetic and winning balls from that area and also keeps balance when full backs go high in the attack,” he told Goal.
“I used him a couple of games as a right full back (at Sporting Goa) but his natural habitat is in the midfield where he is well surrounded as he gives good first passes. He is obviously not an attacking player and this is why he has to be well surrounded. I think right back is also a suitable position for him.”
Now that he’s signed for Real Kashmir, Shirodkar is looking forward to clocking some much-needed playing time.
“I need to play now because now if I go to any ISL club, the first thing they will ask you is ‘how many minutes did you play last year?’ Last year, I don’t know what happened.
“Last season also actually, after Hyderabad (trials), I was supposed to go there (Real Kashmir) but that is the time they signed Robin Singh on loan (from Hyderabad FC). At the end of the season then, coach (Dave Robertson) messaged me so I said okay.
“Now I want to start from Kashmir, give my best and show that I can still play. Most of the players who signed for I-League clubs after playing in the ISL never made a come-back in the ISL. Adil made a big come-back and it was really good for him.”