GUWAHATI:Hailed as ‘Spiderman’, Subrata Paul’s has been a prolific presence under the bar for the national team. The flamboyant goalkeeper with over a decade of experience is considered the best in his new team NorthEast United FC and started in the first match of ISL 3 on Saturday.
But there is no place for him in the Indian starting XI at the moment. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been Stephen Constantine’s first choice and the 30-year-old is all praise for him. “I’m happy for Gurpreet. He is our flag-bearer and should play in better leagues in coming years. I enjoy the rivalry we have and it’s up to the coach to decide.”
Before Sandhu went on to seal a place in Norwegian top division side Stabaek FC, Paul had explored foreign shores, although not much came out of his visit to Danish outfit FC Vestsjaelland. “I always wanted to play in Europe and it was perhaps the greatest experience of my career. I spent less than a season, but learnt a lot.”
The Bengal player, who was with Mumbai City FC during the first two seasons of ISL, believes Gurpreet will not be an isolated case post the U-17 World Cup in India next year. “It will be a game-changer for Indian football and our players will feature in the big Asian leagues like Japan, Korea and even in Europe thereafter. In my opinion, it will make India one of the superpowers in Asia.”
Having caught national attention with acrobatic saves in India’s rare appearance in the final round of the Asian Cup in 2011, Paul is probably past his best. He often fumbled with the ball turning out for DSK Shivajians in the I-League last season. But he has a different take on this. “I think critics are my well wishers and they expect more from me. It makes me work harder. I don’t think I’m not doing well. I’m good enough to be in the India squad.”
For a middle-class boy from Sodepur, a town located on the fringes of Kolkata, Paul has had a remarkable journey. His efforts won recognition recently when he was chosen for the Arjuna award. “I’ve never played for any award. If people consider I should be awarded, let it be. Arjuna is considered one of the greatest achievements for sportspersons in India. I’m happy and proud to get it. It’s a different feeling taking it from the President. I don’t have words to explain it,” he said.
Having tasted success with phases of failure with former employers, Paul is keen to do well for his new team. “I respected the support NorthEast got when I played against them in the last two ISL seasons. I’m happy to have their backing. Hope we can bring joy to them.”