I hadn't done anything wrong, says Jobby Justin on ATK transfer

ATK forward Jobby Justin opens up on the transfer tussle with his former club East Bengal and his Indian national football team call-up in an interview with Sportstar.

Indian footballer Jobby Justin at the national team's preparatory camp in May.   -  AIFF Media

On a football pitch, Jobby Justin comes across as a flamboyant personality. However, contrary to his on-field persona, Jobby is shy off it. Recalling his maiden international call-up in May under new coach Igor Stimac, Jobby says, “I wasn’t able to perform well because it was my first international camp. I was kind of scared in that moment. I became really silent [around the group]. I was meeting some of them for the first time like (Sunil) Chhetri bhai. So I didn’t know how to interact with them.”

On the night before Stimac announced his final squad for the King's Cup, the staff and the players went out for a team dinner. The Croatian pulled Jobby aside to tell him that he was one of the two players who had failed to make the cut. “The coach pointed it out to me that I needed to engage more with everyone,” the striker revealed to Sportstar.

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Jobby, who was the joint-top scoring Indian player last season along with Chhetri (9 goals in the league), took the advice on board and made it a point to be more approachable during the following Intercontinental Cup camp in June. This time he made the final 23-man squad and went on to make his national team debut as a late substitute in the 4-2 defeat to Tajikistan.

But it was a testing time for the 25-year-old in the lead up to his debut. He was caught in the middle of a transfer wrangle between his new club ATK FC and his former employer East Bengal.

A day before joining up with the players for the camp, Jobby had to seek permission from Stimac to fly out to New Delhi to appear before the All India Football Federation (AIFF) player status committee. Last month, the committee ruled in the player’s favour allowing him to play for the Indian Super League (ISL) side ATK.

“I hadn’t done anything wrong and my agent also reassured me. The case required me to travel quite a bit which made it difficult. I spoke to the coach and he asked me to sort it out and come back,” says Jobby.

He adds, “I didn’t expect them to react this way [to the transfer]. When I was playing [for them], they were friendly. As a professional when I wanted to move, I expected them to not stand against my wish. That was disappointing,”

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With the episode behind him, Jobby is keen to make an impact with the Blue Tigers ahead of the World Cup 2022 qualifiers starting on September 5.

“It was a big need of mine to play for the national team. Now, I want to solidify my place in the team. I want to give my best during the camp and then hopefully take that into the qualifiers,” says the Trivandrum-born footballer.

Reflecting on his last few months since his national team call-up, Jobby says, “I am more serious now. My approach to football is professional with respect to my diet, workout programmes and the training I undergo.”

Speaking of his transfer to the Kolkata-based side ATK, he says, “One of the biggest reasons to move from East Bengal was to play in the ISL. I am looking forward to the competition within my place in ATK and I want to prove to myself that I can do well. 

"Kolkata is a place which is known for its football. So I wanted that vibe to continue. So when a good team like ATK comes up with a great offer, it wasn’t a tough choice to make."