Goalkeepers are traditionally known to mature late but Arindam Bhattacharya, 20, is bucking the trend. The journey from the senior national camp in 2007 to Sunday’s SAFF Cup win in Dhaka has been a learning curve for the Sodepur boy. But he feels there is a long way to go and challenge Subrata Pal, his more illustrious neighbour.
“Mishtuda (Subrata) is still the No.1 goalkeeper. I have to perform consistently to gain that kind of experience,” Bhattacharya, who spent most of Wednesday sleeping after waiting for nearly two days in Dhaka before reaching home on Tuesday evening, said.
Next up is the Federation Cup but Bhattacharya, the SAFF Cup’s Player of the Tournament, is yet to warm up to the task. “The last few days have been hectic and I am still tired. I haven’t given much thought to the Fed Cup,” he said.
The winning feeling is yet to sink in. “We went into the SAFF Cup as underdogs but only after our first win did we realise our potential. The national camp too was of great help though I spent the first week on the bench with a fractured hand,” he said.
It was national coach Bob Houghton’s idea to send the U-23 team to the SAFF Cup and later the AFC Challenge Cup in Sri Lanka next Februar. “In two years, a lot of these guys (U-23 team) will make it to the senior team and they would be ready to play good teams with the experience that is being gained now,” Bhattacharya said.
“Personally, I’m indebted to Bob Sir.”