With the pain of missing the chance still visible on his face, Paul in an interview to www.the-aiff.com, stressed on the supply-line which has replaced the 'Golden Generation', his manner of preparation for a match, the 2013 SAFF Championship, the guarding of the Line of Control and much more.
Q: Are India are the overwhelming favourites at SAFF Championship?
A: It always happens likewise. But the tag of the favourites comes along with its pros and cons. We are the Defending Champions and would be aiming to win it again. But it's easier said than done. All the other SAFF Countries have become much more competitive in the past few years.
Q: Is there any added pressure when you people expect you to win every match?
A: Personally speaking I haven't felt any pressure ever. I just love the sport. It's only in some quarters that they speak about 'pressure.' I just pray to the Almighty for strength -- both physical and mental and go out and try to do my job. When you play for your Country it's all about pride which propels you ahead to win every match.
A Goalkeeper is like a soldier who guards the Line of Control. The soldier doesn't allow any infiltrators past the Line of Control while a Goalkeeper guards the Line of Control on the field. The difference stays the former has guns at his disposal we do it with our gloves. (Subrata smiles). And I'm honoured to do it.
Q: How much has SAFF Football changed in the past few years?
A: It's no more a lop-sided battle. Today you just cannot take any Team lightly. If you look back at the 2011 SAFF Championship in New Delhi, you will understand what I mean. The margins of victories have narrowed down. Any team can beat anyone on any given day.
Q: What has been the best thing to have happened to Indian Football in recent years?
A: The last five years have been very very happening as far as Indian Football is concerned. It started from our triumph in the Nehru Cup in 2007 followed by two successive triumphs in 2009 and 2011 where we beat Cameroon in the Final. Besides, there have been two SAFF titles and a qualification to the Asian Cup by virtue of winning the AFC Challenge Cup. If six triumphs in the last six years isn't enough what else is? Besides, the supply line is in place.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: The squad of 20 in the SAFF Championship has so many Players who are below 23 or just 23. Nirmal Chettri, Raju Gaikwad, Jewel Raja Shaikh, Robin Singh, Dawson Fernandes are all 23. Mohanraj turned 24 the other day while Alwyn George and Sandesh Jhingan are both 21. This comes just over a year after the 'Golden Generation' of Mahesh Gawli, Dipak Mondal, Samir Naik, Surkumar Singh, Climax Lawrence, Bhaichung Bhutia left playing International Football. The pipeline is ready for the job.
Furthermore, our age-group Teams, U-16 and U-19 Teams are also doing wonderfully well. I have been following them for long.
Q: How was the Camp in Bangalore and what's the mood looking ahead to the Tournament?
A: I'm never satisfied over a National Camp (Subrata smiles again). I just hoped it lasted for some more days. National Camps are always so productive. But yeah, if you look at the match against Tajikistan, that too was a part of the Camp. The aim of any National Camp is to get the best out of all.
Q: How do you prepare for an International Match? Is your preparation the same as like any other match or a shade different?
A: There's no separate preparation. My focus is just to play the 'Beautiful Game' and spend as much time on the ground. Even if it's a match in your locality or an inter- district match or a Club match or an International Match I will give my 200 percent and just leave the rest to the Almighty. Prior to a match I confide in the Almighty and if you ask me to pick up a jersey, I'll always go for a yellow jersey.
Q: Maintaining calm is a must for every Goalkeeper. Do you meditate or have any particular set of exercises for the same. Tell us more.
A: I think about every practice session, about every save, about every mistake. I try to rectify over those and learn to upgrade myself further. The primary aim stays not to torture my body and keep it fit for the next day. Unless you stay fit you won't be able to play at all. That's most important.
Q: India play Pakistan in their first match at the SAFF. What are your thoughts running into the match?
A: The first match of any Tournament is very important. Once you are through it you are able a gain a momentum. It's a Four-Team group and we play every alternate day. Pakistan are a very powerful side. But it will be a match on the field, 11 vs 11.
--IBNS (Posted on 29-08-2013)