NEW DELHI: Indian football team right-back Pritam Kotal feels that he has more than made up for his lack of talent with his ability to work hard and become a vital cog in Igor Stimac's scheme of things.
Having come through the ranks, Kotal is now a regular starter in the Indian team.
"Honestly, I was not a naturally talented player and I'm not ashamed of admitting this. I knew I had to overcome my shortcomings through hardcore training and sheer practice regimes," Kotal told the All India Football Federation's website.
"Even during the off-days, I used to train inside the room to go a notch up. It was something which came naturally to me."
It was from his U-19 days at the AIFF Centre in Goa that Kotal developed the habit of scribbling down every practice session in his personal diary.
"I started it as I wanted to minimise my mistakes, not just the practise sessions, but also the matches I played," Kotal said.
"In fact, I still have the habit of jotting it down. And why not?" "It is a simple exercise but an effective one.
Everyone makes mistakes on the field and to minimise our mistakes, we need to train hard.
After every training session, I take notes.
"Before heading to the field on the next day I check on the points so that I don't repeat it again. There's no rocket science behind this, but this helps me always. I follow it even today," he smiled.
The defender's penchant for meditation has earned him the nickname of 'Meditation Kotal' in the national team.
It was teammate Sandesh Jhingan who first spotted Kotal sitting in front of a candle flame and staring at it without almost a blink as part of his meditation schedule.
"Meditation has helped me a lot," he said.
"I have been staring at the candle flame for long -ever since my U-19 days. Football is all about focus and concentration. As a defender, I can't afford to lose my concentration even for a second.
"Here comes the role of meditation which has helped me stay calm and composed even during a tough face-off or a not-so-well training session. Kotal has so far represented India in 36 International matches and 10 age-group Internationals. And though he admitted that the loss to Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 was heartbreaking, he/ also labelled it a "new beginning."
"We have grown stronger since that day. Life for a footballer is full of such moments. It was a lesson learnt, and it marked a new beginning for all of us.
"It was so near yet so far. That has taught the Blue Tigers how to improve, when to improve. And we are improving with every given day."