New Delhi:Five years ago Subrata Pal was vilified across the country after his accidental punch resulted in the death of a player during a football game. Now the Indian goalkeeper is the toast of the country as the Man of the Match in the Nehru Cup final. He saved three penalties to earn the Man of the Match award as India won the final 5-4 in the shoot-out. This truly is a story of redemption for a player whose career almost came to an end.
Subrata, then a goalkeeper for Mohun Bagan, had punched Dempo's Cristiano Junior in the face while trying to save a goal during the Federation Cup final. The Dempo striker died on the spot. Subrata got a three-month suspension from the game amidst reports that this was a man who could not control his temper.
Three years later Subrata was on the road to exorcizing his ghosts when he turned in a great showing en route to India's victory in the 2007 Nehru Cup final.
Says coach Bob Houghton, "I don't dwell on the past. He is a very good player."
However the road to recovery was complete when Subrata turned from player to saviour on Monday night, saving three penalty shoot-outs to get India to defend the Nehru Cup successfully.
Now he's the favourite of his captain who paid him the best compliment he's ever had in his life. "He is good enough to be an international player in any team," said Bhaichung Bhutia.
Ironically, despite being the best goalkeeper in the country, Subrata was dumped by East Bengal last season and has chosen to play for Pune FC this year. All this while the national team coach and captain never lost faith in his abilities.