The voice, gravelly and guttural at the best of times, seemed worse for the wear but Subhas Bhowmick sounded sure when asked at what point he thought Churchill Brothers could win the I-League. "The first match," he said, speaking to HT over the phone from Panaji on
Churchill Brothers lost that game 1-2 to defending champions Dempo but then, that's Bhowmick. Making the audacious seem ordinary has been the story of his life now 64 years old.
"What I liked was the way the team stuck together and the tactical discipline they showed. I knew with a little bit of luck we could win it," he said, talking about the match on October 6 that came four days after his birthday.
With Bhowmick, self-belief has never been in short supply. Over 40 years ago rejected at Mohun Bagan, the man said he contemplated death "because being a footballer was all I wanted to be, that was why I had borne my mother hitting me with a ladle hot from whatever she was cooking, that was why I had run away from home so many times."
His joining Churchill Brothers as technical director in February 2012 was singularly shorn of fanfare.
Referred to as Papa by his players, it was also the first step in a comeback. One loaded with pitfalls. Such as Lebanese imports Bilal Narjarin and Akram Moghrabi leaving in January and skipper Beto breaking his hand. Such as the club being hit by a severe fund crunch that stopped payments.
"When I got players such as Sandip Nandy (the goalkeeper was 38 and rejected by East Bengal much against their coach Trevor Morgan's wishes) and Sunil Chhetri who were low on confidence, I could draw on my own experience and help them. I will be with anyone who isn't willing to give up the struggle," said Bhowmick.
Bhowmick referred to his team as an orphanage. With a salary budget rumoured to be around Rs. 7.5 crore - less than half of some of the top teams - he moulded a bunch of unknowns and castoffs into champions.
Now he is looking for a partner to invest in his dream of winning the AFC Cup. "What's the point if you can't take Indian football forward in Asia? I tell you it is possible for an Indian club to win the AFC Cup if we plan right."
Sounds incredible but with Bhowmick you can never say never again.