The ever-smiling Steven Dias' lowered his voice when conversation shifted to his family. The 25-year-old sounded like he was hiding a lot of pain.
“ I never thought I would make it so far,” he said.
From Kurla in Mumbai to a regular in the national team, Dias indeed has come a long way. His father had a blue-collar job in an automobile company. He also had an alcohol problem.
“My father got into the habit of drinking and so he failed to contribute towards running the house,” Dias said on Thursday.
That forced Dias's elder brother to work from the age of 14, as an apprentice at the Don Bosco Technical Institute. His mother worked as a domestic.
“They ran the kitchen, I was three then,” Dias said.
“When I was a little older, I would go to the institute's ground to play football with my brother and friends. At that time I would play barefoot. So, my brother saved some money to get me a new pair of shoes,” he said.
Ever since, he was hooked to football.
Cut to 2001, the year he debuted for Air India, and Dias said: “That was my dream come true. Earlier, (Air India) coach Bimal Ghosh had rejected me. He looked at my physique and asked me to play fourth division first. It's funny to see myself in the national team now.”
About his life under the current national coach Bob Houghton - his third coach after Stephen Constantine (2003) and Syed Nayemuddin (2005), Dias said: “ He is like a magician. Now, every member of the team has a clearly defined role. We are more organised and now know how to attack unlike before, when we would just defend and defend.”
Still with Mahindra United, Dias accepted he didn't have a good season last time.
“I'd had a major problem. Most of the time NP Pradeep and I would warm the bench. Bob (Houghton) used to visit during matches and would be amazed at seeing the two of us sitting outside.
“It was Bob who supported me when my morale hit an all-time low and I even thought of leaving football. I am a reformed man now. There's a lot more of me left for everybody to see,” he said.