After breaking into Bayern Munich World Squad, Shubho Paul harbours Hero ISL dreams

It was Chima Okorie, one of the most successful foreign recruits in Indian football, who spotted the wonder boy from the sidelines of a practice ground in West Bengal. The place is called Salkia in Howrah, hardly 10-15 kilometres from Kolkata. Shubho Paul, then seven years old, would often come with his elder brother to watch him practise.

One day, Okorie walked up to the little boy and asked him to join the practice from the very next day. He gifted him a jersey, shorts as well as a pair of shoes; for he couldn’t afford them. That was the beginning of his journey ten years ago. Paul, now 17, is preparing to fly to Mexico, then to Munich to join the Under-19 FC Bayern World Squad.

Recently, the world-renowned German club launched a global online talent hunt program to gather 15 promising Under-19 footballers from different parts of the world in one place. The program was conducted by club legends like Klaus Augenthaler and Giovane Elber. They went through the videos of hundreds of participants and shortlisted 100 at first. Eventually the list came down to 15, and Paul featured in that.

Video of his performances in matches and training were sent by Anuj Gupta, his coach at Sudeva Delhi FC for whom Paul played in the Hero I-League last season and even captained them in some of the matches. It was a dream-come-true moment for the West Bengal boy when Mr Gupta broke the news to him in front of all academy boys. “When Anuj sir announced that I got the call from Bayern Munich to join their World Youth Squad, I couldn’t believe it immediately. I thought, I was dreaming. Later, when everyone clapped for me, I realised, it was real”, Paul told in an exclusive interview.

He continued, “Anuj sir and I will fly to Mexico in the last week of this month for a 13-day preparatory camp with the other 14 guys of the squad. Then we’ll fly together to Germany to play some matches as well as feature in practice sessions. If I can show my best performance there, they may select me for their youth team. Though, I am a little bit nervous. Hopefully, I can make it. My parents and elder brother Raju have asked me to make my country proud and I have promised them to try my best.”

Reminiscing about how his footballing journey started, Paul said, “My elder brother Raju used to take me to the football ground regularly. To be honest, I didn’t have much interest in football back then. I used to watch him practise from the sidelines. The great footballer Chima Okorie would often visit that camp and one day he marked me at the sidelines and asked me to join the camp from the next day. Then I was only seven but began practice with the Under-17 boys and scored a few goals. Chima sir appreciated me a lot and asked me to continue with football. But my parents didn’t have money to buy jerseys, shorts or shoes for me. Then, Chima sir provided me with all accessories. Apart from my brother, I also got immense help from my coaches Tapan Karmakar and Ujjwal Chatterjee. Because of them, I have reached here.

“I got involved with the Sudeva academy because of Ujjwal sir. He and Anuj sir have a good relationship. After their discussion regarding me, Ujjwal sir sent me to Delhi for Sudeva’s Under-13 trial and I got selected. That was the moment, when my real football journey began. Now, I have to grab the chance and get selected for the youth team of Bayern Munich. For me, this is the next milestone to reach.”

Nurtured by the Sudeva academy, the attacker-cum-winger has played for junior India sides in the Under-15 SAFF Cup and the Under-16 AFC Championship qualifiers in 2019. In the SAFF Cup, he scored three goals and netted two in the AFC qualifiers.

The youngster from Salkia finally spoke of his Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) dreams. “For young Indian footballers like me, the Hero ISL is a huge platform. I have been observing budding players of our country developing themselves in the Hero ISL. Foreign coaches must be of immense help to bring us closer to the world standard. Sharing dressing rooms and training with foreign footballers is also a blessing for us. I want to have all these experiences.

“To get the call from the senior India squad, I have to prove myself in the Hero ISL. I have a dream of playing for my favorite team ATK Mohun Bagan. I will also be glad if I get a call to play for Mumbai City FC. I have heard that they are the most professionally managed team of the league. It will be an honor for me to be in their dressing room. I have to fulfill all my dreams step by step. I want to be like our idol Sunil Chhetri,” Paul signed off.

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