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Posted on Feb 04, 10:55PM | IBNS
By Nilanjan Datta, Kochi, Feb 4 : Even as a determined Sandip Nandy made his comeback into the National squad, Subrata Pal mentioned that Nandy has "set a new benchmark for goalkeeping in India."
In a chat with www.the-aiff.com, Nandy speaks at length about his complacency which cost him his place from the side, the change in the National Team atmosphere, his "inspiration" Subrata Pal and much more.
Q: You are back to where you once belonged. How do you see it?
A: I have won my battle - the battle which one has with oneself. I admit I was a bit too casual in between and had become complacent. That cost me my place in the National squad. Furthermore, a spate of injuries never helped my cause. I felt bad. I wasn't getting younger any day and the only recipe stayed hard work.
I worked upon my fitness and regained my side in my club teams. I didn't have any specific target in mind. I need to thank Coach Wim Koevermans for giving me a chance. It's now my turn to pay him back. I just can't let him down.
Q: Has the atmosphere in the National squad changed since you last played?
A: The difference is there for all to see. Wim Koevermans is a very strict disciplinarian as much he is a good human being and a superb tactician. But there are certain set of rules laid down for everyone off the field.
Unless you are disciplined off the field, it will never boil down to your performance. That wasn't the case earlier as all were left alone after practice. But now we have a Coach who is like a Friend, Philosopher and Guide to all. He's talking to you, asking you about your needs, easting with you, travelling with you. All these will have its positive impact and that's what has happened.
You see all moving around as a team as Koevermans stresses on 'teamwork' a lot. There aren't any complaints from the players. They are enjoying it and that's important.
Q: How much is it difficult to adjust with younger goalkeepers like Subrata Pal and Subhashish Roychowdhury?
A: Not at all. It was not without reason that Subrata Pal was dubbed as the 'Spiderman.' After the 2006 Asian Games when I felt I had reached my peak, I became complacent. I wasn't staying serious during practice and started to compromise. Hence, I was punished. Subrata seized the opportunity by his hard work, discipline and performance. That's a lesson which I have learnt...
Nandy couldn't finish the sentence when Subrata and Subhashish entered. And then the trio sat down.
Subrata added: "Sandip-da has always been my idol. I'm not saying this as he is sitting next to me. I have always looked up to him," he said.
Subhasish added: "I remember when I was an India U-19 goalkeeper and we were camping in Goa as were the then Senior Team squad. I had sneaked into the Hotel just to click a picture of his. I had approached his brother to ask him to pose with us. It was my prized possession," he recollects, as everyone bursts into laughter.
"I was at the ground on the day when Sandip-da announced his arrival. He was playing for Sonali Shibir at that time," Subrata goes on.
"You know, he has redefined the art of goalkeeping in our country. He still inspires me. Look at the manner he has made his comeback. In the last seven days, he has prompted me to believe that goalkeepers can play even beyond 40," Subrata pronounces.
Sandip jokes: "Come on, I haven't turned 40 as yet;" and we turn to Sandip again.
Q: Is age ever a problem for a goalkeeper?
A: I don't think it is. At least, it hasn't been for me. The urge from within is still the same as it was ten years back. Age helps a goalkeeper to mature but has its constraints at the same time. I needed to take work on maintaining my reflexes.
Even if you look around, you'll find Jens Lehmann, Oliver Kahn, Brad Friedel, Edwin van der Saar has donned the gloves around 40. What's more, Dino Zoff even won the World Cup at 40 in 1982!
Q: Does it pertain only for goalkeepers?
A: I always tell the new generation to live a disciplined life. Once you have money and get all the adulation, that too at the age of 21, many a talent fades out. That's where a footballer needs to be smart. You can never be diverted by the attractions of life or should I say the vices of life.
What irritates me is when someone doesn't take his practice sessions seriously. I tell them my story. From No. 1 in the country I was replaced in no time.
Q: What next for Sandip Nandy?
A: I have learnt a lot from Subrata and am still learning from him. You need to share your experience as well as gain it from others. As a goalkeeper I need to be flexible both physically and mentally. As long I'm able to do it, I'm happy and relieved.