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Sunil's penalty sessions at Mumbai City helped me predict where he would shoot: Albino Gomes

Written by: Sanroy D'Sousa


Albino Gomes has become an overnight star after saving Sunil Chhetri’s penalty in the I-league, but has a more vivid history than that…

Aizawl FC were playing defending champions Bengaluru FC on Wednesday, at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Mizoram. Brandon Vanlalremdika had given the lead to the hosts with a well-placed header in the first half only to be cancelled out by Sunil Chhetri’s rasping drive from a half-volley, which ripped the net in the dying minutes of the first half.

The teams went into the tunnel 1-1, came out and the next 45 minutes were played goalless. One man who stood out on the pitch was Aizawl FC goalkeeper Albino Gomes, who saved a penalty from India and Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri. This is only the second time in recent history (2-3 years) that Chhetri’s penalty has been saved.

Talking exclusively to Khel Now, Albino revealed that practicing with Chhetri during their Mumbai City FC days helped him in making the save. Albino emphasized, “It felt great to save the penalty from Sunil Chettri and keep our team in the game and yes, training with Chettri at Mumbai City FC did help me a bit as he used to practice penalties in the training sessions, so it gave me some idea of where he would shoot."

If, by now, you’re thinking this was a one-off thing, we take you into the life of one of the most hard-working and determined goalkeepers in India. Albino hails from Goa, a state which breaths football. The player started playing for his school Fr. Agnel High School, Verna at the age of 13. Later, he went to Goa trials and got selected in the U-13 team.

Albino has already become a crowd performances with his strong performances

The road ahead was a little more difficult. Albino was called up for the India U-13 camp, but could not make it to the final squad. With dedication and intense hard-work needed at that level, not every youngster makes it big. We ask him this, and he gives us an insight. “I started playing football because of my mom. She was the one who forced me to go for the school selections as she knew I like football as I was scared of not being selected for the team. Then she motivated me and pushed me to make me better and even now sometimes she becomes my coach, she tells me what mistake I did and what should I do,” said Albino.

‘Was it just his mother?’ is the swift counter someone fires from the crowd. Albino clarifies, “Even my dad has been very supportive. He has always supported me in good and bad times. Without them, I would never have been what I’m today.”

Grounded and hardworking, Albino has a long way to go. With seniors like Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh and Karanjit ahead in the line, we asked him about his desire to represent the national team. Albino was quick to reply. “Of course, everyone wants to play for their country. I will keep working hard and will wait for my chance.” If you keep saving the captain’s penalties, we’re sure you’ll be in sooner than later.

Albino is unabashed in his outlook and portrays his thoughts in a clear way. On being asked about what he feels about the ISL-I-league merger, Albino said, “I think it will benefit the Indian players because there are a lot of good footballers in the country and if the number of teams increase, the other players will also get the opportunity to play in the league and will be able to rub shoulders with some top quality footballers.”

Albino Gomes with Diego Forlan during his Mumbai City FC days

Top quality footballers reminded us of one of the finest footballers of the world to have played in India. Albino is one of the few handful Indians who’ve shared the dressing room with Diego Forlan, the former World Cup player-of-the-tournament winner. Having made about half a dozen appearances in the ISL, Albino talked highly of the Uruguayan, “It was a great opportunity for me to play alongside a legend like Diega Forlan. He is a great player. I gained a lot of experience from him. He always supported me and gave me confidence in every game I played."

We believe the confidence has surely helped him and that is visible in his performances in the I-league. Aizawl FC are currently third on the league table, just behind East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. The player added his thoughts about the current season, saying, “By God’s grace, it is going good till now and we will have to work more to make it better. (We’re) looking forward to more victories and clean sheets.”

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has set the bar high, playing for Stabaek FC in Norway and recently, the India international also captained the club. When asked about his aspirations, Albino clearly said, “Yes, of course. If I have an opportunity to play abroad, I will definitely try for that and it has been my dream to play in Europe someday."

Albino Gomes has become crowd favorite in Aizawl .

Albino Gomes has become crowd favorite in Aizawl.

Albino has represented Goa and India at the U-16, U-19 and U-23 levels. He was part of Salgaocar Juniors, a team which had won the Indian leg of the Manchester Cup and had represented India in Manchester for the World Finals. While his parents have surely been the pillars of strength, there should be an inspiring idol for such dedication. Albino nodded and smiled on this. 

“My idol is Iker Casillas, but I’ve learnt a lot from Virender Singh who was my goalkeeping coach at Salgaocar FC. I worked with him for five years and he is the one who made me believe in myself.” Albino has played for Salgaocar’s first team since 2013 and was loaned to Mumbai City FC, where he has grown massively in the last two seasons. Albino also saved a penalty in this season’s game against Shillong Lajong and has played every minute of the season so far for Khalid Jamil's outfit.

With such strong performances behind him, a national team call-up cannot be ruled out. While we’re sure Albino will keep working hard for his chance, we want him to grow and take the game ahead. India is a proud owner of a capable contingent of goalkeepers already and Albino has surely added his name to the list.

We wished him all the luck for the upcoming games and asked him for his message to the Indian football fans. Albino, knowing the state of affairs and the need of the hour signed off saying, “I urge all Indians to keep supporting the game and help Indian football.” Talent, brains and articulate opinions, we all like Albino already, don’t we?


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Published: Thu Feb 16, 2017 03:05 PM IST


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