Garcia lavishes praise on Rafique and Nete

Football ISL: Kolkata skipper says his team deserved to be champions

Garcia lavishes praise on Rafique and Nete

Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) skipper Luis Garcia credited young Indian striker Mohammed Rafique and custodian Edel Bete for the team becoming the inaugural Indian Super League champions after a win over Kerala Blasters in the summit clash here.

“It was unbelievable (Bete’s save in 83rd minute). The team worked so hard but that save and Rafique’s goal was worth an award,” the Spanish player said.

Garcia missed out playing in the final and said it was disappointing not to be a part of the playing XI but said the team deserved to win the final for its hard work.

“I was very disappointed. At the end, this is the kind of game a player wants to play. When I arrived here, all the people during the whole season, we’ve been working so hard. All the 30 players have been working from the start in Madrid. We know that even when we don’t play or don’t have chances in games sometimes, for our hard work we deserve this trophy,” he said.

The Spaniard said it reminded him of Liverpool’s Champions League final at Istanbul in 2005.

“It kind of (was like the 2005 Champions League win in 2005). It was a final. It was important for us as we were working hard for the last three months. To arrive here after struggling in the middle of the competition was very important and we got the trophy,” he said.

ATK’s marquee player believed the winning goal from Mohammed Rafique has proved that new league to a certain extent has  managed to achieve it’s targets of an Indian players showing their potential at a big stage.

Meanwhile Rafique said he will cherish his 20 minutes on the field for the rest of his life.
“Everyone dreams of playing in the final. I too wanted to play in the final and for that I worked hard and the coach saw that. These 20 minutes are the most important minutes of my life. When I was given this opportunity, I thought I will give it my best. I thank God for helping me emerge as the hero,” Rafique said.

Making his second appearance in the tournament, Rafique said he reaped the rewards for his hard work.

“I feel very good. I do not have words to express. I practiced during the entire tournament. Maybe I was not suited to the system the coach wanted to play. So maybe that’s why I was on the bench. After that I was played and I have proved myself,” the Bengal player said.

“My coach (Antonio Habas) just told me to continue practicing and keep working hard. When you do that, your efforts ultimately always bear fruit,” he added.

Pat for Kolkata
Disappointed at losing the trophy but glad to have made the summit clash at least, Kerala Blasters coach-cum-player David James praised Atletico de Kolkata, saying the best team won.

“I had said they were the best team in the competition and I was hoping that we would still beat them and we had chances too. It just goes to show that you have to play to the final whistle. A minute before the end, we switched off on a set piece, and it cost us the match,” the 44-year-old goalkeeper said.

James took pride that his team made ATK work hard till the last minute and said it was a bittersweet result for him.

“Disappointed of course by losing the game but I have to be positive about the fact that my side got to the final. Pushed the champions to literally the last minute. A bittersweet moment I would say,” he said.

The former Liverpool and Manchester City goalkeeper said there were some tense moments in the match but Atletico controlled the game at crucial times. “Kolkata started so well in the competition.

I said they were the best team, and the best passing team, ball control team in the competition. There were other flair players granted for other teams but today they seemed to control the game at the right times. Not necessarily the most attractive game of football, granted, but it’s a cup final and got two team’s with very good defences.

“Of all the defensive records, we have the best in the league section and they probably had it in the last six or seven games. It was going to be a tight affair. Edel produced a wonderful save in the fitting moment of the match to keep Chops (Michael Chopra) out,” he said.

James lauded the efforts of ATK custodian Edel Bete and said the Cameroonian won the final for his side.

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