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Midfielder Joni Kauko – ATK Mohun Bagan’s most effective recruit in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 has come a long way since his arrival in India. So far, his Indian journey has been nothing short of incredible.

Transcending the normal hierarchy at Finland-based Inter Turku to kickstart his professional career, Kauko relished the club’s greatest hour, as he was part of their only domestic league cup win, back in 2008. It was his first season in the top-flight, following three transitional years at the club’s youth setup, making eight appearances in the whole season. After winning three trophies in five terms, he shifted to rivals FC Lahiti.

The career graph of Kauko had never been extraordinary, but he’s done enough to keep his prominence in the European circle, having played for clubs like Randers and Esjberg in the Dannish Superliga (top-tier), along with stints in Germany with FSV Frankfurt and FC Energie Cottbus. Having made three appearances in Euro 2020 with the national team, Kauko was then set on a mission to conquer unknown territory – Hero ISL.

ATK Mohun Bagan, known to pull-off big-shot signings in the transfer window, grabbed headlines overnight by hinting at an import from Euro 2020 over social media. With Hugo Boumous, a tried and tested attacking playmaker in the Hero ISL already in their ranks, Kauko’s arrival raised questions on who amongst the two would get a spot in the playing XI, with the four-foreigner rule already applicable.

Kauko made his debut for the Mariners in the Hero ISL 2021-22 campaign opener against Kerala Blasters FC, where he played as a central midfielder alongside Boumous. Even though he was not very effective in the opening game, Kauko showed sparks of brilliance in the following game – the Kolkata Derby, where he tormented the SC East Bengal players and provided an assist en-route to a 3-0 win.