Subrata Paul sets lofty targets of glory with Hyderabad FC

Reviving glory days of Indian football is one of the targets, as much to establish Hyderabad FC as the best football club in the country, Subrata Paul said in a chat with Sportstar.

Subrata Paul has joined Hyderabad FC for the upcoming season of Indian Super League.   -  Special Arrangement

Hyderabad FC hopes to gain from the vast experience of 33-year-old goalkeeper Subrata Paul when it begins the campaign next season.

Subrata, who has played 85 matches in the ISL so far with a league record of 28 clean sheets, has joined Hyderabad FC.

Subrata was a member of the Indian team which won the 2015 SAAF Championship and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup (in Hyderabad) in his 67 international appearances. The two-time Nehru Cup winner (2012, 2009) was also named AIFF Player of the Year in 2009 and is the only custodian to get that award.

READ: Gurpreet Singh calls Subrata Paul his role model

In a chat with Sportstar, he shares his thoughts on joining Hyderabad FC and the team’s chances in the upcoming season.

What are your expectations for this year?

We all wait for the virus to subside and football to resurface and regain its glory. Let the season be conducted with no threats of virus, let football be football back again. The country is starving for football action – let the ball get rolling.

“I am working on my coaching licences. I feel every player should complete theirs while playing – it enables you to read so much into the psyche of players.”

What is your role in the team and the challenges you are working on?

I am just another player in the team, but it comes with a huge amount of responsibility. It’s a huge challenge to pick up a club into its second season and trying to make a mark in the Indian football scenario. So, in that sense, I am also a fresher. Life as a footballer has taught me that despite all your dreams you need to be patient, both on and off the field. My experience as a player and captain of the Indian National team makes me confident that I would be able to help and mould the youngsters in the right frame. At the same time, aiming to have one of the best club seasons ever under the bar. I am making no compromises on that.

What are your thoughts on Albert Roca and his philosophy of football?

Coach Albert Roca is a seasoned campaigner and his inputs and coaching will surely help the club propel forward. Having a coach like him is an asset, but there’s also a flip side for the players. Even as much as he will be guiding us, he will always be demanding that extra level from the players. He is someone who hates to lose, and we as players need to understand the intellect ourselves with his coaching philosophy. I have always watched him from the opposite side – as a rival player. I look forward to working and playing under him.

What are your plans on grooming youngsters as the senior statesman?

I am working on my coaching licences. I feel every player should complete theirs while playing – it enables you to read so much into the psyche of players.

I would like to tell the youngsters to look after their diet right from the first day. During our days, we didn’t get much guidance on what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat and rest timings. But now that you are blessed to have it, make the most of it. There’s no tomorrow in the life of a footballer. In fact, there is even no today. It’s all about ‘right now.’ It’s now or never.

How do you think football would be post COVID-19 pandemic?

I am an optimist and will always feel that football will envelope us all. Football will be the unifying factor in the country soon. It has already been uniting fans world over, as club football in Europe and elsewhere have restarted. Sports has always been the unifying factor down the ages.

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Life beyond football - your interests and your hobbies.

My family means everything to me. Music comes next. I also love to read, watch and research coaching analytics. But there’s not a day where you can take football away from me.

How does it feel to return to Hyderabad where you played a key role in India winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 and your performance got you the nickname ‘Spiderman’?

The name Hyderabad will always remain synonymous with Indian Football’s history. Over the years, it has produced so many International stars, and the club’s quest to revive glory days has personally appealed to me a lot. Unfortunately, all these years we didn’t have a club from the ‘City of Pearls,’ and now that we have one, it didn’t take me long to decide on moving to Hyderabad FC and be a part of Indian Football’s glory and history. Hyderabad’s love and passion for football is folklore and I look forward to all the fans to back their team and stand by them. The nickname ‘Spiderman’ motivates me, but it is in the past. A footballer cannot rest on past laurels.

How much did Indian football gain from ISL, especially the Indian players in terms of improving or learning new skills?

The Hero Indian Super League is a platform which has allowed much transfer of knowledge to Indian players. You get to learn while practicing, playing and interacting at length with the foreign recruits, or should I say the big names, and even while travelling with them. It has been a kind of eye-opener for me. Obviously, it’s up to the player to grasp as much as you can when you have a certain Florent Malouda, or an Elano, or a Diego Forlan and others.

“The modern-day goalkeeper is not just a shot stopper. All build-ups begin from him. I always feel the goalkeeper is the owner of the field as he can see everyone and study the game faster than others.”

From my side, it was in 2011 when I got to play against Tim Cahill in the 2011 Asian Cup and he was such a big star then. Some eight years later, we are sharing the dressing room together, travelling together, playing together. So, if I can’t grasp as much as much as I can from him, it’s my loss. Getting to see them has motivated me to play further and forever.

What is the role of a goalkeeper in football in terms of inputs to the think-tank?

The modern-day goalkeeper is not just a shot stopper. All build-ups begin from him. I always feel the goalkeeper is the owner of the field as he can see everyone and study the game faster than others. So, you will always find goalkeepers more vocal than maybe others in team meetings. The goalkeeper reads the game faster than anyone.

How do you rate HFC’s chances in the next edition as a lot of changes were made including a new coach taking over?

We will be starting from scratch and I have big personal targets set for myself and the club. Reviving glory days of Indian football is one of the targets, as much to establish Hyderabad FC as the best football club in the country. I understand all of the fans have been patiently waiting for success – it’s been long. But football is a team game and for that we need their support and unconditional love. We can only win it together.

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