From winning the competition last year to topping the table this year, Atletico de Kolkata fans have had a whale of a time in the Indian Super League. But the events of 11 November will forever be etched in their memories for months to come.
In what was a rematch of last year’s final, Atletico were up against the Kerala Blasters and the south Indian side were giving them a tough time at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. The visitors had taken the lead twice in the game, only to see Antonio German draw Kerala level again with a brace. When it looked like Atletico would go back home with only a point, the unthinkable happened.
In the 93rd minute of the game, with both sides tiring, 26-year-old Sameehg Doutie stepped up and produced a game-changing moment. The South African midfielder made a run down the right flank, waiting for the ball. When it came to him, his first touch saw him deliver a low cross into the box, and super-sub Arata Izumi made the finishing touch to a sweeping move, giving Atletico a famous win.
The three defenders never saw it coming. To be fair to them, nobody saw it coming. They were waiting for Doutie to control the ball and take it into the box. Instead, the cross from the corner of the box beat them all ends up and the alert Izumi ensured Atletico would take home all three points.
The win would revitalize the team as they marched up from fourth to the top of the table in no time. While Izumi would make the headlines, none of it would have been possible had it not been for the guile showcased by Doutie.
After Atletico de Kolkata lost their final game 3-2 to Mumbai City, Doutie picked up the DHL Winning Pass award – an award presented to each team’s highest assist-maker in the ISL this season. He finished the league stage with six assists – third on the list. But what makes his achievement more remarkable is that he has played lesser games compared to the leaders – Leo Moura and Florent Malouda.
The first thing that comes to mind when we talk about football are the goals. Over the decades, players such as Pele, Maradona, Thierry Henry, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the most popular stars – the team’s main goalscorers. Their goalscoring exploits are the stuff of legend, and they are the first names that pop into a fan’s mind when someone mentions ‘football’.
But why are those who provide the final ball always forgotten in the annals of history? It is a team game after all. That is why initiatives like the DHL Winning Pass award are so important. It was time to give the assist-makers their due, and this award does exactly that.
Atletico de Kolkata are already through to the playoffs; they were the first team to qualify. Doutie will want to finish the season with a winners’ medal before he looks to find other opportunities abroad.
Having played for the South Africa U20 and U23 teams, a senior team call-up would see another goal accomplished. But come 2016, Kolkata fans will want to see him wear the red and white kit again, with the hope that they can win a third – a possible three-peat.
ISL Official Site