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Can Subrata Paul prove his skeptics wrong by returning to ‘Kolkata Maidan; after a long interval?

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The veteran Indian goalkeeper returned to East Bengal after 13 years joining the Red and Golds on loan from Hyderabad FC…

It’s a homecoming for veteran Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul as he returns to his hometown and East Bengal after a 13-year gap. The goalkeeper joined the Red and Gold on loan from Hyderabad FC for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

The 2007-08 season was the last time Paul plied his trade with a giant from Kolkata and, incidentally, his time in his hometown ended with East Bengal. Prior to that he had played for another Calcutta giant, Mohun Bagan, where he started his professional career in 2004.

Kolkata has never been a happy place for the Bengali keeper. He’s played a total of four seasons over his 17-year career and hasn’t seen much success in terms of winning major league trophies or getting enough playing time.

After graduating from the Tata Football Academy (TFA) in 2004, Paul joined the Green and Maroons. As a rookie goalie who was still a teenager, he barely had time to play. Over the next two seasons he mainly worked as an understudy for more experienced goalkeepers like Prasanta Dora and Sangram Mukherjee.

Along with Mohun Bagan, the goalkeeper won six trophies (two IFA Shields, two Airlines Gold Cups, a Federation Cup and a Calcutta Football League) in three seasons, but he was hardly a part of any of those triumphs.

2007 was Subrata Paul’s breakthrough year in Indian football. He then gained the trust of then Indian national team coach Bob Houghton and became the country’s number one goalkeeper. Thus, his transfer to main rivals East Bengal ahead of the 2007-08 season attracted a lot of attention. Three other Mohun Bagan players Mehtab Hossain, Tomba Singh and Mehrajuddin Wadoo followed Paul to the Red and Golds.

Paul joined the Red and Golds after winning the famous Nehru Cup triumph in 2007 with the Indian team where his performance, notably in the final against Syria, garnered much praise from all corners. Naturally, the Red and Golds loyalists had high expectations of the goalie.

Their trip started off perfectly in East Bengal when the Red and Golds, under the tutelage of Mohun Bagan legend Subrata Bhattacharya, won the Federation Cup in Ludhiana. They had beaten their rivals, Mohun Bagan, in the semifinals, then beaten Mahindra United in the final to lift the trophy.

With so many stars in their ranks including Paul, the Reds and Golds had hoped to double the domestic titles, but unfortunately East Bengal’s performance in the I-League was appalling as they finished in sixth place.

Subsequently, he moved to Pune City where he played for three seasons before joining compatriot Salgaocar FC. He had also returned to Calcutta for a brief period and played for Prayag United in the 2012-13 I-League season. In the Indian Super League (ISL), Paul played for four different clubs before joining East Bengal on Loan in January.

Paul, although he has achieved almost everything in Indian football, both for the national team and at the club level, has for a very long time been criticized for not being able to play for clubs in Calcutta where pressure from supporters is huge. Being the son of the ground, the veteran goaltender in his twilight years is hoping to prove his skeptics wrong.

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