Indian football team right-back Pritam Kotal feels that he has more than made up for his lack of talent with his hard work to become part of the national team. The defender has been a regular part of the Indian team set-up for the last few years.

“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 said during an Instagram chat with the All India Football Federation.

“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.

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 for the team.

“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 us how to improve, when to improve. And we are improving with every given day.”

India are set to resume their 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign on October 8 as they face Qatar in Bhubaneswar. Sunil Chhetri and Co will later be up against Bangladesh (away) on November 12 before welcoming Afghanistan in Kolkata on November 17. Stimac’s are already out of contention for a berth in the 2022 World Cup but they are still in the reckoning for the 2023 Asian Cup as it is a joint qualification campaign.

Kotal said the team will need at least one full training camp to be prepared for their match against Asian champions Qatar.

“It is really a bad time for all of us, no matches are there to play. Without preparation or playing any friendlies it will be difficult to face Qatar. They are Asian giants,” he said.

“We need camp before we face them. There is a lot of difference between a team practice and an individual practice. We need camp before everything else. We want to have the preparation time. Nothing is in our hands. It’s a world problem. We want to prepare ourselves and then go to Qatar to play. Not only Qatar, we need to do well against Bangladesh, Afghanistan too. Whatever it takes – we have to keep fit.”