Sushanth Mathew appears on the television screen holding a cup of tea. He takes a long sip, as they cut to a flashback moment — his solitary goal for the Kerala Blasters in the inaugural ISL. The focus then returns to the present. Mathew holds up his cup, and says in Malyalam, “anything is possible with tea.”
For the 34-year-old midfielder, the long-ranged effort against Chennaiyin FC in the semi-final last season was by far his greatest moment on the football field. Mathew found himself as the forward-most player in a Blasters’ counterattack in the dying minutes of the game. From the right flank he cut in neatly to dodge an onrushing defender. Still 30 yards from goal and with no help in sight, Mathew attempted a shot that curled past the outstretched arms of the diving goalkeeper, nestling in the corner of the net.
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The goal generated unprecedented stardom for him back home. “I’ve become quite a celebrity and people keep inviting me as guest of honour for inauguration ceremonies all around Kerala,” he says.
His fortunes on field, however, plummeted. Mathew could not manage a professional contract for the next season. Consequently, concerns grew over whether he would manage to secure an ISL contract since his lack of playing time in the off season. There was a sense of relief when Pune City FC came calling.
Now that he has found a club, Matthew insists he will attempt a few more long-rangers and remind people what he is capable of. But on the last legs of his career, Matthew knows playing time will come at a premium for him.