Prior to this I had won four I-League titles; in fact, I should say, National Football League titles. My first triumph was with Mohun Bagan and then two with East Bengal and another one with Mahindra United. This is my fifth title.
How much is this special?
This triumph is the most special one simply for the circumstances under which it has been achieved. Back in Kolkata, people had doubted me. Prior to the season, the East Bengal Coach Trevor Morgan wanted to sign me but some officials didn’t. That’s how the life of a footballer is. Understanding I couldn’t continue, I had asked for release from the club. Thereafter, I was desperately searching for a club and had almost joined a 2nd Division Club until Subhash Bhowmick persuaded me to join Churchill Brothers.
There was a lot to prove to all – a lot. The Almighty gave me strength and the year turned out to be the most memorable one. It was a rare experience to play with Churchill Brothers.
Is it ‘most memorable’ just for the I-League triumph?
How can you forget my return to the National Team squad? Some years back, I stayed an integral part of the National Camp but all of that was past for me. Honestly, I won’t say that I targeted to be back in the National squad but had never given up hope. And when Wim Koevermans called me up, I was on Cloud Nine. It was the biggest gift I could ask for. My performance and hard work was rewarded.
What different did you do?
I stay grateful to Subhash Bhowmick and the Churchill Brothers management for allowing me to train under Goutam Sarkar, my first Coach in Burdwan. Sarkar knows me inside out and Bhowmick brought him to Goa just to help me out. His style and approach suits me and the rigorous training bore fruit.
What about Subhash Bhowmick?
All this wouldn’t have been possible without Subhash Bhowmick. His vision makes him special; his care for the players makes him special. To be honest, I never dreamt of becoming Champions with Churchill Brothers. This was a team of talented youngsters with some Senior Players plugging in the remaining places. But it was Bhowmick’s mission. The confidence which he had in us was infectious enough to for all to realise our potential.
What stayed the hallmark of training?
The pre-season training turned the tide. Our pre-season kicked-off on July 2, 2012, at a time when most other clubs hadn’t even assembled or had even roped in all their players. We trained for two sessions in a day. If you look back at our performance, you’ll notice that there aren’t many injury concerns in our team. All of us owe it to the pre-season training.
You mentioned it was a ‘rare experience’ to play with Churchill Brothers. Could you elaborate?
I have had the fortune of playing in Kolkata Clubs who enjoy a huge support base and also for Mahindra United, who were an Office Club. But Churchill Brothers is a family club. The pattern is much different. In reality, we stay a big family — I’d say, a big joint family. Churchill Alemao has always stood by us and is mad about football. To see from close as to how a family operates was a rare experience indeed.
What next? Do you have anything more to prove?
I have much more to prove to myself. Football is my profession and I can never compromise with it. Fitness is a must, especially for a goalkeeper which is a thankless job. I take inspiration from criticism but fear praise. It makes you complacent. I know it more than anyone else.