Irrespective of how they end this season, it is imperative East Bengal forget the beginning.
To call their quickest exit from a tournament where they have been the most successful team (27 titles) a nightmare would be inaccurate only because it happened on a muggy mid-monsoon afternoon. Either Tata Football Academy or Chirag United will be the semi-finalist from this group.
Level on goals one minute from time against India’s longest -serving football nursery — the Tata Football Academy (TFA) — would have been reason enough for East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick to be worried.
Two goals conceded in the next two minutes meant summoning the whole squad for training on Friday morning and the coach saying he would have ‘at least one sleepless night’.
Minutes earlier, Robin Singh, one of the three cadets responsible for that ‘sleepless night’, said he is ‘walking on air’. Jagtar Singh and Irfan Khan, the other two, echoed him in Hindi.
Fernando Torres, Robin quipped, when asked who his favourite player is. Any Indian idols? “No, I want to be the one everyone looks up to.” Were you calm when you had only goalkeeper Abhra Mondal to beat? “I was hungry. I had run for 90 minutes and setting up the second goal gave me confidence,” he said.
Jagtar, who neutralised Syed Rahim Nabi’s strike heading home Raju Gaekwad’s long throw, said he looks up to Mohun Bagan’s Rakesh Masih. “He (Masih) recommended me to the TFA after I didn’t like being at JCT’s academy because the boys there were older and bigger,” Jagtar, who along with Robin, will graduate next March, said.
Varanasi’s Irfan owes his fledgling career to uncle Naseem Khan and the way he exploited Mondal’s poor reaction to meet Robin’s measured cross with a header wouldn’t have shamed his idol Cristiano Ronaldo at all.
Score: East Bengal Club 1 Tata Football Academy 3