Ubaid CK - The long road from Sevens football to Super Cup final

At 27, Ubaid CK finally got a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity of making it to the big stage in the I-League with Kolkata giant East Bengal. He has made it count so far.

Bigger challenge awaits: Ubaid CK will be hoping to stop Bengaluru FC's Chhetri and Miku and help East Bengal clinch the inaugural Super Cup.

For Ubaid CK, it has been a long wait to make it to the big leagues of Indian football. The goalkeeper from Kannur had an uncertain career, mainly due to nominal wages or lack of playing time.

In his 2012 stint with Dempo SC, he spent a season on the bench as a back-up option to the then India internationals Subhasish Roy Chowdhury and Laxmikant Kattimani.  

From there, he played for four seasons shuttling between Air India and ONGC in the Mumbai Football League.

READ: East Bengal, Bengaluru FC chase first trophy of the season

It was during his time at Air India that he caught the eye of the then Mumbai FC coach Khalid Jamil.

Then, at 27, he got a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity in the I-League with East Bengal.

“It was a couple of years back,” Ubaid recollects, “After my season with ONGC, I returned home to play for FC Kerala in the Kerala Premier League on loan. I didn’t think I was making enough money to support myself or my family. But, they didn’t force me to quit playing the game.”

Breakthrough

After he signed permanently for FC Kerala, Ubaid got a call from Jamil, who took over as the coach of East Bengal.

The Kolkata giant already had three goalkeepers in its books, but the I-League-winning manager wanted Ubaid as his number one.

"I have never faced such pressure in life than at East Bengal. Here, you have pressure from fans, the management and the coach. Thankfully, I have not made a mistake, yet, to rub them on the wrong side."

 

Moreover, it took a lot of convincing from Ubaid's side at his parent club Kerala FC for him to finally get his desired move.

“When we were at a training camp in Koraput, I received a call from Khalid. He asked me if I could come to Kolkata for a trial as the club was in need of another goalkeeper,” says Ubaid, who made his foray into football through Kerala’s Sevens Football.

However, he could sign for the club only in the January transfer window on a loan move.

He played his first game on January 30 against Minerva Punjab at the Salt Lake Stadium. Since then, he has made 10 consecutive starts for the club – seven in the I-League and three in the Super Cup, managing four clean-sheets.

Feeling the pressure

So, what is the pressure like when turning up in a Red and Golds shirt? 

“Phew! I have never faced such pressure in life than at East Bengal. Here, you have pressure from fans, the management and the coach. Thankfully, I have not made a mistake, yet, to rub them on the wrong side,” says Ubaid.

Ubaid considers his Super Cup final opponent Bengaluru FC as a “big challenge.” He will need to keep the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Miku, who have between them 37 goals this season.

“If we have to beat them, we have to really sweat it out there. In their last game against Mohun Bagan, they scored four goals with 10 men! The coach will be putting together video footages of their team for us to look at,” says the former Dempo player.

What will he do if Chhetri gets the ball on the left and decides to curl one into the top corner? “I will need to catch it! I am 6ft 2in. Let’s find out,” he says.

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