ISL champions Atletico de Kolkata’s Jewel in the crown

It was appropriate that someone who answers to the name of Jewel Raja would provide the crowning glory in Sunday final of ISL3.

football Updated: Dec 19, 2016 16:02 IST
Kerala Blasters FC‬,‪Atlético de Kolkata‬,‪2016 Indian Super League season‬‬
Jewel Raja Shaikh scored the winning penalty as Atletico de Kolkata beat Kerala Blasters FC to win the Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday.(ISL/SPORTZPICS)

It was appropriate that someone who answers to the name of Jewel Raja would provide the crowning glory in Sunday final of ISL3. As Atletico de Kolkata were showered by glitters and celebrated on the pitch, Sourav Ganguly surely wouldn’t mind that this wannabe cricketer eventually decided to make a career with a bigger ball.

After Mohammed Rafique in 2014, Raja stole the show on Sunday in a competition that is called the Indian Super League. It meant that even in God’s Own Country, as Kerala is known, and with Sachin Tendulkar in attendance, it was Ganguly who ruled. This, after taming Tendulkar’s team in his backyard in the final two years earlier.

Raja, as Atletico de Kolkata coach Jose Molina said, had asked to take the fifth penalty. “I have noticed that Cristiano Ronaldo always takes the last penalty. That’s why I told my coach that I too would take the fifth shot. Was confident that I could do something to help the team win. And be a hero,” said Raja, 26. (HIGHLIGHTS)

As a player, he was won pretty much everything football in India has to offer. Raja, who is from Budge Budge in South 24 Parganas some 24 km from Kolkata, has also played for India. But the defensive midfielder said this was the best moment of his career since he turned professional. “This was also the first time that I was involved in a shootout,” he said. (GALLERY)

For all that the night had to offer Raja, whose elder brother Tarif Ahmed too played football for India --- it was Tarif’s making it as a footballer that prompted the ATK player to seek a different career path --- the future’s tense. As on Sunday, he didn’t have a club to play for in the I-League. “Maybe, I’ll sit at home and watch matches,” he said, speaking in the mixed zone.

With a performance like the one he produced in the final, Raja is unlikely to stay unemployed for long though. His teammate Debjit Majumder, who saved Cedric Hengbart’s attempt during the tie-breaker, will have to join training with Mohun Bagan and said he was looking forward to it.

From being rarely used by Mumbai City FC to becoming a regular is a long journey which Majumder completed in ISL3. One during which he won the I-League and the Federation Cup with Mohun Bagan.

“There was nothing to prove really because I want to stand out even in training. What feels good is that now I can add the ISL to what I won for Mohun Bagan,” he said.

“I didn’t know him and he was already signed. That’s why I took (reserve goalie) Dani Mallo because I knew him. But from the first day at training, Debjit impressed me as did the other Indian players,” said Molina.

First Published: Dec 19, 2016 10:30 IST