Six years ago,Robin Singh was trying to make his mark playing for Punjabs junior football team. A missed penalty was all it took for the then 14 year-old to be told that he was not good enough to play football. This Sunday it was cathartic revenge as Robin,playing for West Bengal in the Santosh Trophy,made the match-winning pass to Denson Devadas to defeat Punjab in the final. In the semi-finals,he secured the late equaliser that preceded a win by penalties.
Robin has a strong Delhi connection too,having tried his hand at cricket in a local academy while he studied at Somerville School,Noida till class eight. Robins love of soccer made him stand out in a cricket-obsessed atmosphere - something for which he credits his mother a Bengali who followed the game and his father for not dismissing his choice.
Dad was in the merchant navy. He spent a lot of time in Spain and probably knew there was more to sport than just cricket. He always took a more than keen interest in my game. Not only would he point out mistakes,he would also thrash me if I repeated them. I still call him my very own Jose Mourinho.Encouragement aside,Robin also has helpful genes. His grandfather was Ajit Singh,Indias soccer Olympian from the 1952 games in Helsinki.
While Robin admits he was never very good at studies,choosing which sport he would play was more of a challenge. I guess Ive made some right choices. he says. When I was young I was good at both cricket and football. I used to play for Sumit Dogra academy in East Delhi as an opening bowler. When I was 13 I had a choice,I could either continue with cricket,or with football. Ultimately I went to St Stephens in Chandigarh to study,where I could also concentrate on football.
Robin went on to represent the state at the junior level,until,during a under-16 match in Ambala,he was advised to quit the game for good.
Robin didnt take those words seriously,and instead decided to apply at the Tata Football Academy Jamshedpur. Even in Punjab I had already been approached by the T.F.A. Initially I had not considered it because I had wanted to complete my studies in Chandigarh,but then I wrote them a letter and asked them if I could come for a trial. Ever since then everything has been on the way up.
During his stint at the T.F.A,Robin captained the Jharkand u-19 and also the u-21 squad for whom his goal scoring spree of 12 goals in 6 games at the u-21 Nationals alerted the East Bengal talent scouts.
On Monday,Robin was back at the Yuba Bharti Krirangan,just a day after what he calls a pretty big day in my life for training with East Bengal. Hes bagged a Rs 50 lakh contract with them,and the first thing on his mind is to look for a house. Ive been in Kolkata for 3 months. I have literally been living out of my suitcase.The next thing for the 6 foot 2 striker is love. In Kolkata it definitely helps if you meet a girl at a club and you say you are a professional football player. Not in Delhi,but over here they go gaga, he smiles.
Despite having gotten one of the best possible starts to his career,Robin has his feet firmly on the ground. I am still only 20. I might have be part of the Santosh winning team and I might have a nice big contract,but I still have a long way to go. I now want to perform for East Bengal and ultimately want to play for the national team, he signs off.