Almost a decade after Australia beat the Indian football team 4-0 at the AFC Asian Cup 2011 in Qatar, Socceroos legend Tim Cahill still remembers the match, courtesy one man - Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul.
The scoreline for India could have been worse but for a heroic performance by Subrata Paul. His heroics between the posts won him the nickname ‘Spiderman’ and established Paul amongst Asia’s best goalkeepers.
Up against a star-studded Australian team featuring Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Mile Jedinak, Mark Schwarzer, Scott McDonald and others, the Bengal custodian’s brave show not only earned him plaudits from Indian fans but also the respect of his opponents.
“I remember the game so vividly. He was everywhere. In the end, we shared a chat and we still talk about the game when we are together,” Tim Cahill said in a message during Subrata Paul’s Instagram Live session with the All India Football Federation.
“The title ‘Spiderman’ that he got in the game against us and obviously all the games that he played in 2011 Asian Cup was because he was on the top of his game because of his work ethic,” Cahill, who reached the quarter-finals with Australia at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, added.
Subrata Paul’s Australian fanfare
The Australian also lauded Subrata Paul’s professionalism as ‘second to none’, having had the opportunity to play as teammates at Jamshedpur FC during the Indian Super League (ISL) 2018-19 season.
“I was lucky enough to have played with him in Jamshedpur. He was always working tirelessly, before and after training, always,” Tim Cahill added.
The Indian, too, reserved high praise for his former Jamshedpur teammate.
“Seven years after that game he came to Jamshedpur to play in the ISL. When he joined the camp and we met each other and shook hands, Tim said to me, ‘I remember you, mate.’
“I was really lucky to have played alongside him. Tim’s dedication is incredible. But what makes him great is that he is such a down-to-earth guy,” Subrata Paul stated.
Revisiting the Asian Cup match, Subrata Paul also recalled Mark Schwarzer – then the Australian national team keeper and Fulham custodian – visiting the Indian locker room after the match to swap jerseys with him.
Eyeing a comeback
Now 33, Subrata Paul has dropped down the ladder with the likes of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Amrinder Singh racing ahead of him to vie for a starting spot in the senior Indian football team.
However, the veteran goalkeeper still fosters a dream of making a comeback to the national squad for one final bow and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup is his target.
“I strongly believe that I have a lot to contribute to the national team. Coach (Igor Stimac) has said whoever has an Indian passport stands a chance to get selected to play for the country. I am working day in and day out to achieve it,” Paul said.
Cahill, who recently retired from international football, also thinks the Indian still has a lot to give to Indian football.
“I think his role in the India national team is really important for his experience. Paul might be a key figure for the next generation,” Cahill reckoned.