Ecstatic Rafique delighted to score championship-winning goal
Atlético de Kolkata’s triumphant campaign in the inaugural edition of the Hero Indian Super League, culminating with a dramatic, last-gasp 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters in the final, makes for a great story, with one of India’s most storied and football-crazed cities adding one more accolade to its proud footballing tradition. But for striker Mohammed Rafique, who got the winner in the dying minutes of the game, it is no less than a fairytale. The 22-year-old had barely featured for his side, with his cameo off the bench in the final only his second appearance of the season, but the man who played just over 20 minutes in the entire ISL tournament scored its biggest goal.
The young forward was understandably ecstatic in the aftermath of Kolkata’s victory as he celebrated with teammates who were praising his name for delivering the ISL trophy. In an exclusive interview withindiansuperleague.com, Rafique expressed his delight at helping his team become the first champions of the ISL.
“This is the biggest achievement!” the 22-year-old exulted. “The ISL is a huge stage for Indian football, so this win feels really good!”
Rafique was modest when it came to his own achievement, even though he will go down in history as the player who won the first ISL final. More important to the West Bengal-born player was the fact that his goal contributed to a team triumph. “I would just like to thank Allah that my team could win because of a goal from me,” Rafique said understatedly.
He credited head coach Antonio López Habas for having the faith to bring him on in the crunch end of the final, despite his limited playing time before this appearance. “My coach just told me to continue practicing and keep working hard,” Rafique explained. “When you do that, your efforts ultimately always bear fruit.”
It is a mantra that clearly worked for Rafique, whose efforts in training throughout the season bore fruit on the grandest stage of all.