Trekking, family & being vocal: ISL award-winning custodian's mantra to success

Mumbai City FC goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa reflects on team's title-winning season, his love for trekking and more
File picture of Phurba Lachenpa
File picture of Phurba LachenpaPhoto | Mumbai City FC

CHENNAI: Phurba Lachenpa is fond of the mountains. Whenever the Indian footballer gets time off, he goes trekking.

Coming from Lachen, a tranquil region located at an elevation of around 8500 feet above sea level in North Sikkim, it was only natural for him to be enamoured by the mountains. "I'm into trekking. Because I'm a mountain person, I love trekking. During my holidays, I go to mountain base camps like Kangchenjunga (third-highest mountain in the world). Now, I really want to go to Mount Everest base camp. In Sikkim too, we have lots of places to go for trekking near my hometown. That is one of the best things for me," Phurba says.

Phurba has scaled many challenges in his flourishing career so far and he climbed yet another mountain, metaphorically speaking, on Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who plies his trade miles away with Mumbai City FC, finished on top in the goalkeeping department in the just-concluded Indian Super League Season. Moreover, his standout show between the sticks helped his club clinch the coveted ISL title on the final day.

Phurba claimed the Golden Glove with as many as nine clean sheets in 22 matches during the season. In the final that was held in Kolkata, Mumbai beat Mohun Bagan Super Giant 3-1.

"We had a tough start. We lost in the semis of the Durand Cup and then we didn't have much time to practice and directly went for the Champions League. We played one of the top teams in Asia in the form of Al Hilal. Then we had a change of coach and then we had a few injuries as well. Given the circumstances, we did quite well. Credit goes to everyone, especially our Indian players who played to their potential and did a pretty good job. Beating Mohun Bagan on their own turf in front of 62,000-odd fans in hot and humid conditions, it was good. Overall, we had a successful season," Phurba reflects.

It is clear that Phurba, who has been with Mumbai since 2020, is not getting carried away by his success. His hunger is evident as he spoke about his aspirations. "At the club level, I have been playing constantly for three years now. I was part of the Champions League as well. Last year, we won the Shield and before that (two seasons ago), I played in the semifinal and made a penalty save and we won the ISL Cup then. I'm hoping for more games in the national team and I want to make my international debut in the near future. That's my dream. I'm working constantly trying to improve myself because there's always room to improve. We never stop learning. We have every tool in the club to become a better player and better person as well."

Note: Most clean sheets is a stat showing his goalkeeping performance this ISL season
Note: Most clean sheets is a stat showing his goalkeeping performance this ISL season

Coming from a remote region to being one of the bright faces in Indian football, Phurba has come a long way and it's evident that he has evolved over the years. The fact that he was handed the captaincy during the season speaks for itself. That experience has handed him an extra kick.

"It was a huge honour. Mumbai is one of the big clubs in India. Mumbai City provides one of the best facilities in India. In any sport, you're not just made captain for the sake of it. So I think the coaches and everyone else saw something in me. It was big. When someone puts that level of trust on you, you have to work harder and repay that faith put in you. I'm doing that and I hope to do that in future too," he notes.

Mumbai conceded the least amount of goals (19) during the league stages. Phurba said being vocal as a goalkeeper has helped him over the years. "It is very important to be vocal as a goalkeeper. We can see everything from behind. If we have good understanding between the defenders and the goalkeeper, there'll be less confusion and miscommunication."

The club had one notable change in the middle of the season. Petr Kratky was roped in after Des Buckingham joined English League One side Oxford United. "We already knew what kind of football we had to play. The only thing Petr changed was he wanted for work rate from the players and he wanted us to press more in the forward. That worked for us and helped us bring success this season."

On the personal front, Phurba's family has been a rock for him, handing him the freedom to express himself on the field. "My mother, my brother and wife have been my biggest influences. They have never put pressure on me and given me the freedom to do my thing. My wife, whom I have known for nine years or so, also helps me keep my feet on the ground," Phurba, who has played for Shillong Lajong and Real Kashmir FC in the past, says.

Currently near his hometown, Phurba will be away from the sport for a brief period and will join the national camp after that.

With a firm head on his shoulders and after an award-winning season, Phurba will be hoping to climb higher in the days to come.

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