We are yet to play to our potential: Subrata Pal

 Debayan Mukherjee

‘Running Commentary’ as his teammates call him, Subrata Pal made a comeback to the Senior Indian side after almost a year in the first match of the Nehru Cup. In a freewheeling interview to www.the-aiff.com, he speaks about the road ahead, the new Coach, the youngsters in the team and much more. EXCERPTS:

Subrata Pal thwarts a Syrian attack during India’s first match in the Nehru Cup  

How do you assess India’s performance against Syria?
We started off well. The first 25 minutes were superb and we stitched a number of passes in the midfield. The commitment level was exceptional. However, with the rain interruption the underfoot conditions changed but we stayed good enough to adapt fast.

Looking ahead to the next three matches…
We are taking one match at a time. The victory against Syria is a thing of the past. When we take the field, the fact that we won against Syria won’t guarantee us a win against Maldives. That’s football. At the moment, we can’t afford to think about anything else. There’s still a long way to go in the tournament. The brand of football on display against Sryia isn’t our best and we are yet to play to our potential.

How well have we adapted to the new system?
They say ‘Fortune favours the brave.’ We needed that bit of fortune against Syria and we capitalised on the chances we got. Settling into any new system takes time. You need to give us that space. The way things are taking shape, I’m sure in the next one year we will improve leaps and bounds as a cohesive unit. The philosophy of Indian football is changing for sure.

Do you pin hope on the youngsters?
Why not? The current crop is quite exceptional. Indian football stays lucky to have a Jewel Raja, Alwyn George, Robin Singh and Manandeep Singh on the bench.

Who are the players who stood out for you in the last match?
It was a team effort but two youngsters Lenny (Rodriguez) and Francis (Fernandes) were simply brilliant. They stood out for me. Not to forget that it was Sanju’s (Pradhan) debut and he was nippy and good. He has been waiting on the wings for a long time.

How difficult is it to guard your citadel under a downpour?
By Almighty’s grace, I was able to keep everything at bay under the rain. My colleagues were giving their best and that inspired me. I can never blame the rain for anything. In football, there’s no room for excuses. I have been lucky enough to play in Kolkata and hence adjusting to the rain isn’t much of a problem.

…Your take on the two goals scored against Syria.
Anthony Pereira’s goal is already in contention to be the Goal of the Tournament. The goal had class stamped all over it. Sunil Chhetri was brilliant to make space for himself and head in Clifford’s cross.