The veteran Indian goalkeeper was the only footballer to make the prestigious shortlist…
In the year of the Olympics, Subrata Paul was part of the fifteen names which were recommended for the Arjuna Awards in 2016.
He was the only footballer on the 15 strong list that included Olympians Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling), Lalita Babar (Athletics), Shiva Thapa (Boxing) among others.
The 12 member selection committee appointed by the Sports ministry was headed by Justice (Retd.) S K Aggarwal and also comprised prominent sportspersons Gautam Gambhir, Mary Kom besides two journalists among others.
The Arjuna Award was instituted in 1961 and carries a cash price of ₹ 5 lakh, a bronze statuette of Arjuna and a citation.
Paul who has had a career spanning more than 12 years at the top level, recently turned out for DSK Shivajians in the just concluded I-League.
Graduating from the prestigious Tata Football Academy (TFA) in 2004, Paul was immediately thrust into the limelight as he turned out for Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and followed it up by switching to eternal rivals, East Bengal in 2007.
He was also selected to be part of Danish Superliga team FC Vestsjælland in 2014, but did not make any first team appearances for the side.
The custodian was also part of Mumbai City FC in the first two editions of the Indian Super League (ISL) but will turn out for NorthEast United FC in the upcoming edition.
In a glorious India career spanning 64 matches, the shot-stopper who was nicknamed ‘Spiderman’ saw India through Nehru Cup wins in 2007 and 2009 while winning the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008.
His shot at glory came in the 2011 Asian Cup where Paul put up a commendable display in goal.
“The Federation pushed a lot for Paul to be awarded,” said AIFF General Secretary, Kushal Das who was a happy man at seeing Paul on the shortlist.
The only other footballer in contention was Indian womens’ team stalwart, Bembem Devi whose name was recommended by the Manipur government but did not make the cut.
Subrata Paul will thus become the first footballer to receive the award since Sunil Chhetri in 2011 and Deepak Mondal in 2010 when President Pranab Mukherjee gives it out on National Sports Day on August 29.
Alongside the Arjuna Awards, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna will be awarded Olympians Dipa Karmakar and Jitu Rai, the committee also announced.
List of Arjuna Awardees: Rajat Chauhan (archery-compound), VR Raghunath, Rani Rampal (both hockey), Lalita Babar (athletics), Sourav Kothari (cue sports), Shiva Thapa (boxing), Ajinkya Rahane (cricket), Sandeep Singh Maan (para), Apurvi Chandela, Gurpreet Singh (both shooting), Saumyajit Ghosh (TT), Amit Kumar, Vinesh Phogat (both wrestling), Subrata Paul (football) and Virendra (deaf sports).