Kolkata: India’s top shot-stopper Subrata Paul is neither excited nor intimidated in his endeavour to become the first player in independant India to play for a first division club in Europe as he gets ready for his six-month stint at Denmark’s FC Vestsjaelland.
The first ever Indian footballer to play in Europe was Kolkata’s Mohammed Salim, who played for Mohammedan Sporting before switching to Scottish giants Celtic back in 1936.”As a kid, I always dreamt of playing in Europe… So it’s a step in the right direction,” the 26-year-old told PTI, days before leaving for Denmark.
Terming this as one of the memorable moments of his career, Paul said “It’s a first step but the real challenge lies ahead and I’m confident to overcome it.””Life is full of challenges. I’ve full faith in my ability to prove myself among the best.” After landing a six-month contract with the Slagelse based Superliga football team FC Vestsjaelland in east Denmark, Paul has a tall order to achieve — to impress the team think tank and then prove himself to make the cut.
The 26-year-old has already achieved the first goal during his 28-day stint in October- November as goalkeeping coach Claus Fallentin was ‘impressed’ by Paul’s reflexes.“He was quite impressed with my reflexes under the bar and offered to take me.”
“The pressure comes with football, there’s nothing to be intimidated about. I’ve to settle down and win their trust.” It’s, however, not easy as he’s going there as a third goalkeeper and the team has fielded only their first goalkeeper, Thomas Mikkelsen, in all their matches.
Paul knows that he has his task cut out.”So it’s a tall order to achieve. I’m going their with a lot of enthusiasm and positive energy. There’s no extra pressure on me.”Having made the top tier Danish Superliga after a fine last season, FCV are now 10th in the 12-team Denmark league with 21 points from 18 rounds after five wins, seven losses and six draws.
Opportunities will be in aplenty for Paul as the team still has 15 more league matches to go besides playing in a tournament (Copa del Sol).”Even if I’m able to play one match during the tournament, it will be a big achievement. I’ll give my best.” With India winning the bid to host U-17 World Cup in 2017, Paul is living a dream when he will see all the Indians playing in top European clubs.
“Winning the bid was the biggest news to have happened to Indian football. This is just a small step towards achieving the big goal. I hope after the World Cup, all the youngsters get to play in top European clubs.”If Paul gets to play for FCV, he would be the first Indian playing professionally in Europe since Sunil Chhetri went to Sporting Lisbon B in 2012. Former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia is the only other Indian to have been a professional in Europe with Manchester’s Bury FC from 1999-2002.
Paul also thanked his employers IMG Reliance and Anglian Holdings for facilitating the deal.Anglian Holdings, an NRI-owned multi-national corporation, has a strategic stake in FCV that was established in 2008 as an offshoot of the Slagelse Football Club and Sports Association (SB and I).