Be it qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup after 27 years or Sunil Chhetri’s iconic hat-trick in the final, the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup campaign was one of the most memorable tournaments that India played in the recent years. Till the 2015 edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the lower ranked teams had to compete in the AFC Challenge Cup to fight for a lone place in the Asian Cup.
India, by winning the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup, found themselves qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. After a marginal decline of the national team in the 90s and early 2000s, India finally managed to qualify for the Asian Cup after 27 years.
The team coached by Englishman Bob Houghton and led by national legend Baichung Bhutia, remained unbeaten throughout the tournament winning 4 out of the 5 games they played. In the final against Tajikistan, Sunil Chhetri inspired the team to a 4-1 victory courtesy of a hat-trick. The lone goal for Tajikistan was scored by a the 18-year old Fatkhuloev who recently played for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL.
India were on a good run of form going into the tournament, winning the 2007 Nehru Cup in which they beat Cambodia 6-0 in one of the matches, one of the biggest margins of victory by the national team. India the went on to win the 2009 and 2012 Nehru Cup and participated in two Asian Cups after the tournament. 13 years on, as the Blue Tigers expects to make strides towards qualifying for the next Asian Cup, we take a look at the members of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winning team, their performances over the past decade and their positions now.
Only 3 out of the 23 members are still active at the top tier. Various other members have had important coaching stints after retiring.
Subrata Pal :
One of the currently active players of the squad, Subrata Pal emerged as a prolific custodian over the past decade. One of the most capped Indian players, Subrata rose to fame during his early days with Bengal giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. At just 20 years of age, he was made first choice keeper for the national team in the 2007 Nehru Cup which India won.
Subrata was a crucial part in the tournaments that India won after that including the 2009, 2012 Nehru Cup and the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup. One of his greatest performances came against South Korea in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup where he pulled off 16 saves in the match even though India lost 1-4.
He also went on to become only the second Indian to sign for a top division European club when he signed for Danish club Vestjaelland in 2014. He then played for Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League, becoming a mainstay at the club till 2017 when he joined Jamshedpur FC where he won the Golden Glove for the 2017/18 season. A seasoned veteran, Subrata played for SC East Bengal having joined the club on loan mid season in January.
The 34-year old still continues to inspire young goalkeepers from the country with his illustrious career, with him being fondly called ‘Spiderman’ for his excellent reflexes. He was the first choice keeper for India till 2015, after which Gurpreet Singh Sandhu took over that place.
Subhasish Roy Chowdhury :
A player who has recently returned to the national team squad, Subhashish’s performance under the sticks have been consistent with all the clubs he has been in. Starting his career with East Bengal, Mahindra United and Dempo, he then had stints with various clubs switching every season.
He won the inaugural ISL title with Atletico de Kolkata in 2014. Though he was able to put in noteworthy performances, he was constantly on the move switching clubs. It wasn’t until he signed for Northeast United in 2019 where he played two straight seasons in the same club in the ISL. He still remains the first choice keeper for the club. His hardwork and consistency had paid dividends as the 34-year old was included in the Indian squad for the friendlies against UAE and Oman.
Irungbam Surkumar Singh :
Right back Surkumar Singh had a long and illustrious international career with 52 caps in ten years from 2001-2011. He was able to stamp his place in the right back position for over a decade.After him only Pritam Kotal could make the position his own for a long time. Surkumar had stints with East Bengal and Mohun Bagan after which he joined I-League second division side Mumbai Tigers in 2013 and later joined Baichung Bhutia’s United Sikkim in 2014. He is now currently without a club, but he is considered as one of India’s best right backs of his generation.
Moirangthem Govin Singh :
The youngest member of the squad, centre back Govin Singh had multiple stints with I League and ISL clubs. He started his career with Churchill Brothers and East Bengal and since then been a part of various I League clubs. He also played in the ISL for Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City used mainly as a right back. He was a part of the NEROCA team which gained promotion into the I League in 2017. The 33-year old is currently without a club and will be looking to get back into action soon.
Anwar Ali :
Anwar Ali solidified himself as one of India’s best central defenders of his generation. His height, strength and aerial prowess made him a valuable player in every team he played for. For years he was the first choice centre back for India making a formidable partnership with Gouramangi Singh.
He made contributions to many I League clubs, winning the league with Mohun Bagan in 2015. His antics in the ISL speak for his ability. He made 33 appearances in the ISL for Delhi Dynamos and Mumbai City FC. Anwar is still going strong at the age of 36 with Roundglass Punjab FC in the I League.
Gouramangi Singh Moirangthem :
Another key player for the national team who led the Indian defence for years. After long. He made a total of 71 caps which makes him one of the most capped players for India. He was adjudged the Indian Footballer of the Year 2010. After playing for Chennaiyin FC and Pune City in the ISL, Gouramangi joined NEROCA FC from his home state Manipur in 2017.
After playing for the newly promoted I League side for a season, retired from his playing career in 2018. He is currently the first team coach of FC Bengaluru United which plays in the I League 2nd division.