Updated: June 12, 2021 2:07:09 pm
Not so long ago Subho Paul used to ride to local games on a cycle borrowed from his coach. Now, the 17-year-old from West Bengal’s Saikia will soon be on a flight to Germany, to play for Budesliga Champions Bayern Munich’s ‘World Squad’.
“My family is telling me not to think too much about the trip, about selection into Bayern Munich. They are just telling me to enjoy myself and to keep in mind that I am representing India. But I can tell from their voices that they are very happy,” says Paul, who plays at Sudeva FC, a Delhi-based I-League club.
Paul has been staying at Sudeva FC’s residential facility throughout the pandemic. The news of his call up to the World Squad has been emotional for his elder brother, Raju Paul, who left football 10 years ago because of the family’s financial constraints.
“He had to support the family, so he took a job. Our family couldn’t afford both of us playing,” says Shubho.
“I used to play cricket mostly, it was my brother who was the footballer. I used to knock around smaller balls with the other kids. It was him who motivated me to think about football seriously, who took me to coaches,” he recalls.
It was his coach in Salkia, Tapan Karmakar, who believed in Shubho’s talent so much that he lent him his bicycle so that he could come to train everyday.
Such was Subho’s prowess that he also impressed Kolkata football legend Chima Okorie, who gifted him his first football boots.
His career in football started shaping up when Shubho was snapped up by Sudeva FC to play in the U-13 I-League.
“Shubho is a very straightforward person. Before a junior game, we asked him what he wanted to do in the match. His answer was simple: score 10 goals. We were a little surprised, but not as surprised as when he scored 13 goals in the match,” says Vijay Haqari, Sudeva FC co-owner.
Kolkata football legend Chima Okorie drops Shubho Paul off at his home after a training session (Special Arrangement) Haqari and Anuj Gupta, Sudeva FC co-owners, say Shubho once scored 58 goals in 12 matches in the U-13 I-League.
Promoted to the senior I-League team last season, Shubho was also given the captain’s arm-band—at the age of 17.
This year, led by club legend and World Cup winner Klaus Augenthaler and their coach of international programmes, Christopher Loch, Bayern launched a talent hunt to pick 15 players from around the world, to form a ‘World Squad’.
“I got to know from a Bayern representative of the talent hunt. I prepared a CV for him (Shubho), made a video collection of his performances, and sent it across to Bayern. In April, they had a call with me and Shubho,” says Anuj Gupta, co-owner of the club.
Subho, however, credits his brother for his success on the field.
“My brother and I talk on the phone everyday. He tells me not to stay up so late. Now, he is telling me everyday not to take undue pressure of the Bayern trip,” he says.
My heartiest congratulations to Subho Paul, who has been selected to represent FC Bayern Munich World Squad in Germany.
At the young age of 17, he has shown the world what football truly means to Bengal – beyond sport, it’s an emotion.
Proud moment for our country.
Subho has never been fazed by pressure or expectations, say his club mentors.
“Shubho Paul, like all superstars, thrives under pressure. He has a very straightforward thinking, he enjoys attention and performs best when the stakes are high,” say Anuj and Vijay.
But the stakes have risen. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted about Shubho’s Bayern Munich adventure on Friday, citing Bengal’s emotional bond with football. Former Indian national team goalkeeper Subrata Paul also shared news of Paul’s feat.
“When I spoke to Chima sir about Bayern Munich, he told me he had never thought I would reach this far,” Paul says with a smile.
The World Squad will go to Munich to play against the Bayern youth team. Before that, they will travel to Mexico as part of the project and will play against top Mexican U-19 teams.
Ahead of the match with Bayern, they will also get to play with other Bundesliga youth teams. They leave on June 28 and will be there till July 10.
Standout players from the World Squad could be offered a professional contract with Bayern Munich. The project will also be turned into a six-part documentary, so it could open doors to coaches and scouts from around the world.
A fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski, Paul has his sights set on greatness: “I want to play in the Champions League with Bayern Munich.”