Dreams come true, perhaps more often on the silver screen. However, real life is more about a series of dreams, each aiming to take its protagonist to a better place with every tick of the clock.
For midfielder Ritwik Kumar Das, who has been called back to the India Senior Men’s National Team camp, in Kolkata, after almost a year, it is a matter of building on one dream after another as he carves away at fashioning his career in Indian Football.
“Being called up to the National Team is a dream come true for me. There were two things that I’ve always wanted since I was a child – to play football professionally, and to play for the National Team,” Ritwik said. “Getting the chance to play football for the country on the international platform is a great experience.”
The 26-year-old was called up to the National Team camp last year ahead of the Blue Tigers’ friendly against Jordan in Doha, Qatar. However, Das has since suffered an injury, due to which he had to go back after a brief stint in the camp. This time, however, the midfielder is hungry to grab this opportunity.
“I got my first chance in the National Team last year, but due to an injury, I had to go back. Since then, I’ve been building myself back up through this last season to get back to the Indian team,” said Das. “I did not get my debut last time, but I am hungry for my first cap this time round. Hopefully, I will get my chance.”
Ritwik Das is one who has come through the tiers in Indian Football, having played in the Calcutta Football League for Calcutta Customs and Kalighat Milan Sangha before being snapped up by Real Kashmir FC in the I-League.
It was at this point that tragedy struck in the Das family, as Ritwik’s father passed away due to an illness in 2020. It was a moment when Ritwik found catharsis in football.
“His last day was especially tough for me, but I decided to go all out in his memory,” recalled Das. “He always motivated me to keep working hard and get better every day.”
It was after this moment of realisation that Das made the jump to the top tier of Indian Football, first with Kerala Blasters and then with Jamshedpur FC. “I am very thankful for such opportunities. It is because of my performances with Jamshedpur FC that I got my first call-up to the National Team last year, and I just want to keep building up from there.”
The Blue Tigers are currently on their preparation path for the Tri-Nation International Football Tournament, where they will face Myanmar and the Kyrgyz Republic at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on March 22 and 28, respectively. Das believes it is important, especially for new players like him, to get such matches to showcase their mettle at the international level.
“These matches in the FIFA International windows are crucial for the team to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup. Especially for me, this is an opportunity to show the coach, if I get my chances on the pitch, that I can compete at the international level and make a meaningful contribution to the team,” he said. “It’s also important to use these games to work out the team’s strategies and chemistry between different players.”
Like many of his teammates, Das is excited at the prospect of playing in Imphal, a venue that is all too familiar to him from back in his I-League days.
“The ambience in Imphal is just amazing. Even in the I-League matches, when I used to play for Real Kashmir, it was always a daunting atmosphere when we played away at the Khuman Lampak,” he said. “As a player, you always want to play in front of big crowds, be it home or away, so I hope the fans turn up in huge numbers to support us in Imphal. I want to enjoy the moment and hope that we get the wins.”
India’s matches against Myanmar (March 22) and the Kyrgyz Republic (March 28) will both commence at 6 pm IST and will be broadcast and streamed live on Star Sports 3 and Disney+ Hotstar.
Tri-Nation International Football Tournament Fixtures:
March 22: India vs Myanmar, 6pm IST
March 25: Myanmar vs Kyrgyz Republic, 6pm IST
March 28: Kyrgyz Republic vs India, 6pm IST