The winter of early 2011, like all fans of Indian football, was special for Subhasis Bose as well. The morning routine had to be altered as Bob Houghton's boys rubber their shoulders with the best of Asia. For Bose, then a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Kolkata, it meant shifting his practice session timings.
"Back then, I was miles away from being a professional footballer. I was practising under my father in our local ground. I don't remember much details of the matches, but yes, we watched the games," he told Goal before leaving for the tournament.
However, as luck would have it, eight years from that winter, Bose is now going to the continental competition as India's first choice left-back and probably as the only unanimous choice in outfield other than Sunil Chhetri, based on recent form.
"We are not going as tourists to the tournament. Asian Cup is equivalent to the World Cup for us. We have been preparing for months for this tournament. The friendlies against China and Jordan have helped us to prepare well. We played well against China and played as a team," he said when asked about India's approach to the competition.
The Indian defenders have mostly struggled in the Indian Super League so far, with the likes of Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika all failing to impress. Bose, on the other hand, has been a rare bright spot, playing for Mumbai City FC, who have kept six clean sheets this year.
"It's good to play regularly and to not concede. I am going to the Asian Cup high on confidence. There is a great atmosphere within the camp. Everyone is focused to do well. I hope we progress to the knock out rounds with some good results," he said.
These years have taken him to Pune FC academy, from where he signed for Sporting Clube de Goa. Since then he has been a mainstay in Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC, excelling both as centre-back and left-back. Bose, however, claims that he doesn't have a clear preference over his position.
"If you had watched the China match, I have played both as a center-back (CB) and a left-back (LB). When I joined Sporting Club de Goa they signed me as a centre-back. But they needed a left-back, so I started playing there. Then at Mohun Bagan also I continued playing as a left-back.
"But under Roca, during AFC matches, I started playing as a centre back once again. Even in a few ISL matches as well. Even during SAAF Cup, I played as a CB. Now I am both confident and comfortable at the heart of the defense. But my performance against China really boosted my confidence. It has made me more versatile. Now my aim is to perform well in whatever position I play," he remarked.
Subhasish, who had captained India during the recent SAFF Cup, also opined that the Indian players will also reap the dividends of the exposure they have got in the last few years.
"It's hard to quantify the impact but players can tell you about the nuances. We go in to the 50-50 balls, to the late tackles with far more conviction. Having played with all these big names in ISL, the fear of the unknown is gone," he stressed.