Subrata brings steely resolve into play

Goalkeeper turns hero with superb show in Nehru Cup final

Resilient: Subrata Paul came up with three penalty saves to help India win the  Nehru Cup. AP

It is difficult to associate such a pleasant person who believes in god and destiny with the sad incident that led to the demise of Brazilian Cristiano Junior five years ago. Apart from having to live down that tragic incident, Paul had to face a lot of hurdles in his career. The two well-known Kolkata clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal would not look at him. Paul was charged by Mohun Bagan coach Amal Dutta for allegedly taking a bribe in 2006 while he was thrown out of East Bengal this season allegedly for poor performance.

But India’s chief coach Bob Houghton felt Paul was the right man to tend the India goal. “I have no grudge against East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. I had nothing to prove tonight. I always felt that we could win against Syria.

“But for me I didn’t want to let down Bob sir. He had a lot of faith in me and I am happy that I made my contribution in the win,” said the 23-year-old after making three stupendous saves in the penalty shoot-out.

Paul also remembered his coach and former India goalkeeper Debashish Mukherjee. The former goalie played a crucial role in bringing a change in his behaviour after the Cristiano episode. “Had it not been for Debashish da, I wouldn’t have been playing at the Ambedkar Stadium today. I shall always be grateful to him,” said Paul, who has been signed for the newly promoted I-League team, Pune FC. India skipper Bhaichung Bhutia and Houghton were all praise for Paul and felt that his best was yet to come.

“Subrata has been in an outstanding form and I have always maintained that he is the No 1 goalkeeper in the country,” said Houghton.

Paul said he is keen to play in leagues in Japan and Saudi Arabia. He is excited about the new Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rule on overseas players that makes mandatory for all clubs to use one Asian player. “I feel leagues in South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia are of very high standards and I will also try my luck there,” he said.  

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