Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Australian football great Tim Cahill has lavished praise on former goalkeeper Subrata Paul for his “work ethic and commitment” which enabled the “Indian to stay at the top his game” all throughout.
In a chat with AIFF TV featuring Subrata Paul, Cahill said: “Off the park, one of the best things about him is his commitment and professionalism. In the game, he is second to none.”
“The title ‘Spiderman’ that he got in the game against us and obviously all the games that he played in 2011 Asian Cup was because he was on the top of his game because of his work ethic. I was lucky enough to have played with him in Jamshedpur. He was always working tirelessly, before and after training, always,” Cahill said in a message from Australia
For all the youngsters, I think he is a great example. I remember the game so vividly. He was everywhere. In the end, we shared a chat and we still talk about the game when we are together,” he said “I think his role to the India national Team is really important for his experience as in possibly going into coaching hopefully. He might be a key figure for the next generation on the park but for sharing his experience for professionalism.”
Reciprocating the sentiments , Subrata described Cahill as a “down-to-earth” person, who takes care of everyone in and around the team. ” Tim’s dedication is incredible. But what makes him great is that he is such a down-to-earth guy. He’ll make you feel like you’ve been friends with him for 15 years. When he was with us at Jamshedpur FC, he used to take care of everyone from the senior boys, to the junior boys, the kitman, and all others,” .
Before they played for Jamshedpur FC in the Hero ISL, Paul and Cahill had met each other when India faced Australia in their opening game of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar. Although the Socceroos won that match 4-0 (and Cahill scored a brace), it was Paul who earned international acclaim after that game, for the stunning saves that he had pulled off.
On meeting Paul for the first time in seven years after the game, Cahill instantly recognised the man who had guarded India’s citadel and delivered a performance only to be nicknamed ‘Spiderman’ by the International media.
“Seven years after that game he came to Jamshedpur to play in the Hero ISL. When he joined the camp and we met each other and shook hands, Tim said to me, ‘I remember you, mate.’ I was really lucky to have played alongside him,” said Paul.
While he received a lot of applause for his heroics for his performance against the golden generation of Australian football that boasted of Premier League stars like Cahill, Harry Kewell, Mile Jedinak, Mark Schwarzer, Scott McDonald, Brad Jones, Neil Kilkenny amongst others besides captain Lucas Neill, one of these superstars became a big fan of the Indian custodian.
Aussie goalkeeper Schwarzer, who was at that time playing for Premier League side Fulham was so captivated by Paul’s performance that he walked up to the Indian dressing room after the game and asked the latter to swap shirts with him.
“We had lost the match. But later he came into our dressing room. I was taken aback when he wanted to swap shirts. Generally, I don’t swap shirts because I hold the National Team jersey in high esteem. But when a global star like him came up to swap shirts, I was on cloud nine,” Paul said in the live chat.
That gesture by Schwarzer, who later went on to play for Chelsea and Leicester, inspired Subrata Paul.
“We (India and Australia) were staying at the same hotel. So before the next game against Bahrain, I went up to him and got his jersey autographed as well. I was really motivated by his gesture. ,” Paul continued.
Apart from being inspired by one of Asia’s best, Paul also learnt an important lesson with this experience, something that has helped him perform at a high level over the years.
“There’s a saying in Bengali – je joto noto hoy, se toto boro joy (more the humble you are, greater the human being you’ll be). He’s such a big player came to me and asked for my jersey, it just shows how humble he is. Humility is one of the biggest things I’ve learnt from him,” Paul added.HSB