Wednesday , February 21 2024

Indian Football’s Spiderman – Subrata Pal decides to rest his wings!

Football is a strange game, one where the guardians of its most prized rectangle seldom get their due credit. There are, however, occasions when those that are meant to stay rooted in the penalty box, take a flight to leave everyone mesmerised. Former India custodian Subrata Paul was perhaps one of those goalkeepers, who has been an inspiration to many.

The 37-year-old, in a letter to the AIFF on Friday, December 8, 2023, has announced that he will be hanging up his gloves and boots, as he dives into a new phase of his life.

“I am filled with a mixture of emotions. There’s a sense of accomplishment for the journey I’ve been on, coupled with a touch of sadness at leaving the beautiful game behind,” Paul said. “But more than anything, there’s an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the incredible opportunities and experiences football has given me.”

Paul has an incredible 67 international caps to his name, keeping 19 clean sheets, the first of which, was earned on his international debut against Cambodia in the 2007 Nehru Cup at the Ambedkar Stadium, in New Delhi.

The man who captained India on four occasions, said, “Looking back, I am incredibly proud of my career. Representing India at various levels, including the AFC Asian Cup, has been a great honour. From the highs of victory to the lows of setbacks, the journey has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but each moment has contributed to my growth as a player and as a person.”

At the end of his long and illustrious career, which contains three Nehru Cups, one AFC Challenge Cup, and one Tri-Nation Cup trophy, Paul remains grateful to Providence. “Football has been the defining force in my life. It has shaped me as a person, instilled discipline, taught me valuable lessons about teamwork, and given me the immense privilege of representing my country on the world stage. Without football, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” he said.

His greatest time on the pitch arguably came in 2011, when, despite not too favourable results, Paul came onto his own, making an array of acrobatic saves, putting his own body in dangerous situations. Indeed Australia’s celebrated goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer famously came over to the Indian dressing room after their game against the Blue Tigers in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 to express his admiration for the brave performance that Paul had put in, despite the 0-4 loss at the hands of the Socceroos. It was after his performance against Australia, Bahrain (2-5), and Korea Republic (1-4), that Paul was nicknamed the “Spiderman of India”, one he wears “with humility” on his sleeves.

Despite being the foremost goalkeeper of his time in the national team, Spiderman had played the crucial role of mentoring the likes of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has now gone on to take up the mantle.

“Mentoring young players like Gurpreet has been immensely rewarding. I strive to share my knowledge and experience, helping them navigate the challenges and opportunities they face. Seeing their growth and success fills me with pride, knowing that I’ve contributed to their journey,” said Paul.

The former India custodian’s contribution to Indian Football does not stop, however, as he steps into a new phase of his life.

“The next chapter is an open book, and I’m excited to explore its possibilities. While I’m still figuring it all out, I know I want to remain connected to the sport in some way. Coaching, mentoring young players, or contributing to the development of Indian Football are some of the areas that interest me,” he said.

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