A brush with the big stage

Away From Everyone’s Attention, 21-Year-old ’Calvin Abhishek Quietly Made His Way To The Squad Of 18 In What Was The Biggest Game In The Blues’ History…

Between the two of them, Amrinder Singh and Lalthuammawia Ralte dominated every conversation that revolved around Bengaluru FC’ goalkeeping situation in the build-up to the AFC Cup final against Iraq’s Air Force club.  And understandably so. The  Blues’ first choice for over a season but suspended for the big clash, Amrinder was making way for Ralte who last stood between the posts for Bengaluru way back in April. While one was quizzed about his disappointment, the other went about assuring the media that he was confident as ever.

Away from all the limelight, twenty-one-year-old Calvin Abhishek quietly made his way to the Blues’ bench at the Suheim Bin Hammad Stadium, in Qatar. A goalkeeper with the under-19s for three seasons, Calvin’s first appearance on a team sheet with the senior side also happened to be the club’s biggest game ever. “As a third choice ’keeper, you’re always waiting in the wings more than anyone on the team. So to be told that the AFC Cup final would be my first game for the club, albeit from the bench, is a feeling I can’t really explain. The moment we got a confirmation of Amrinder’s suspension, everyone rallied around me and that is something I will always remember,” says the Bengaluru boy who is also a final year student of commerce at St. Joseph’s.

While Ali (Uzunhasanoglu), coach Roca and even Sunil Chhetri had words of encouragement for Calvin, it was a line from Ralte that spurred him on the most. “He came up to told me to back myself in case he got injured and I had to replace him during the final. He went on to say that I had worked hard and if my chance came, I should do it justice. That meant a lot,” says the young shot-stopper.

Calvin who started out with SAI before an exchange program took him to Japan where he played for a university side, says the BFC set-up has done him a world of good. “Ali brings in so much of experience and is always looking to innovate. Every day there’s something new to take back. I’m not sure how many clubs in India can boast of possessing a specialized goalkeeper coach among their staff.”

While he admits playing third-choice can be frustrating at times, Calvin believes he has much to learn and most importantly, has age on his side. “I’ve always looked up to Amrinder for the kind of ’keeper he is so to be on the same team as him is special. I know I’m going to have to work very hard if I am going have climb the ladder and I hope the next time I make the team-sheet it is because I’ve earned my place there. Till then I am going to keep the memory of being on the team for the AFC Cup final as a reminder to achieve my goals.”