The Nehru Cup is round the corner and India’s new national team coach Wim Koevermans recently cut his initial probable list to a group of 27 hopefuls.
One of those who unsurprisingly made the cut is Subrata Paul, the hero of India’s 2009 Nehru Cup triumph.
In an interview with Goal.com, the Prayag United goalkeeper spoke of his excitement at returning into the national fold, having missed the last two international events due to injury.
“I am feeling great because I have been out for a while and missed two important tournaments in SAFF Championship and AFC Challenge Cup. My aim is to play well and be a part of the Nehru Cup," said Paul.
“Last season I did play in the Federation Cup, but I missed 20 league matches, before returning to play the last 6 matches of I-League. I missed playing in important tournaments a lot, especially the AFC Challenge Cup, which is a big tournament as it is qualifying tourney for Asian Cup. I really missed playing there and SAFF championship. I felt very unlucky as we were champions but I could not be there. But the boys played really well,” the former Pune FC custodian added.
The goalkeeper is also quietly confident about the Blue Tigers' bid to make it a hat-trick of Nehru Cup title victories. He stated, “I hope so (we can win the Nehru Cup), because we are doing well in training sessions. There is a good mix of juniors and seniors, the team is getting along very well. Some of the junior boys are very talented. We have good experience too. I think we can defend the trophy.”
“Some of the young boys from U-22 are with us and they are very good talented. Lads like Milan Singh, Manandeep Singh and also Jewel Raja. I hope they play very well in the future.”
Analysing India’s opponents in the competition, Subrata acknowledges that Cameroon will be a tough side to beat but also feels the other teams are very strong units too.
“Yes, they (Cameroon) are a very good opponent, but Syria, Nepal, Maldives are also good opponents. We hope to do well and hold on to the trophy. The first match against Syria is going to be interesting, as the finalists of the last two Nehru Cup finals shall be playing together,” said the Indian international.
Paul is also very happy about the healthy competition between the Indian custodians.
“India has always had great goalkeepers over the years. Goalkeepers like Subhasish (Roychowdhury) are in good form and Karanjit of course has been playing very well. In the I-league, he played some great matches. Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) is also rising well through the ranks. We have tough competition for the goalkeeper position. I do not know who will be starting. But if I play, I will give my best.”
The former Mohun Bagan player is also happy with life under Wim Koevermans. Subrata revealed, “Wim has been good, he has been taking two trainings daily and we have been doing well under him.”
“I did not speak to him before leaving to Germany. After returning I spoke to him and he enquired about the trip and encouraged me further.”
Speaking further about his a fortnight long stint with RB Leipzig, a 4th division German club, the goalkeeper said, “It was great, I think it will help me prepare for next season. They also have already called me for next season, for a similar opportunity. Let’s hope for the best. Germany is the number 1 country in the world when it comes to infrastructure. It is 100% better (compared to India’s infrastructure) with good pitches, great atmosphere and good facilities.
“India has got a lot of talent. I hope they can make it (to clubs abroad) in the future, because we have very talented boys. I'm sure they can play in second or third division of Bundesliga or in other countries in Europe like Portugal or Spain,” he continued.
The former Mohun Bagan player is also very happy to be back to Kolkata for next season, having penned a deal with Prayag United.
“It great to comeback to my hometown, but I am not thinking of my club as I am in the national camp and I hope to do well in Nehru Cup. After the tournament I shall think about the club. However I have to do well next season, as otherwise it will be difficult for me (to keep my national team place).”
Subrata is also looking forward to seeing his new club colleague Carlos Hernandez, who was the best player in Australia's A-League in the 2009-10 season, in action. "It is a very good thing (for Indian football). God willing he shall help my club win some trophies.”The player also had kind words for his old club Pune FC, with whom he spent 3 seasons.
“I miss Pune FC a lot. Pune is like my second home, and the club is very close to my heart. I am still in touch with all the boys and always like to talk to them. I hope they win some trophies as well next season,” he concluded.
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