‘I told Brandon that I have a feeling I might score’

Adil Khan talks about his memorable goal against Bangladesh, his special bond with Brandon Fernandes and more…

October 15th marks a day that Indian football fans will always remember fondly. 61,000-plus fans packed the historic Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata unfurling a multitude of banners, tifos, and mosaics creating an atmosphere to remember for a long time.

In the game though, the script played a little differently, as the Indian national team went down by a goal in the 42nd minute against a spirited Bangladeshi side, and played catch up for most of the second half. With the final whistle fast approaching, Adil Khan kept his calm as he rose above the rival defense, nodding home from Brandon Fernandes’ corner, minutes after a heroic goal-line clearance, to salvage a late draw for the Blue Tigers.

That night at the Salt Lake Stadium is one Adil remembers fondly and on the anniversary of that memorable day, the Hyderabad FC defender appeared in a live chat with the AIFF’s Instagram channel to share his experience of that day and more.

Speaking about that game and his memories of that day, Adil said that it was an unforgettable time for him personally. “The goal-line clearance and the last-minute equalizer that gave us a crucial point from a losing position to go forward in that tournament will always stay with me,” he said.

On a night when India struggled in opening up the visitors’ defense, Adil picked his heroic clearance from Nabib Ziban’s lob over Gurpreet Singh as the most memorable moment from the game. “As a defender, the goal-line clearance was more satisfying. If I did not make that save, the goal I scored would have been in vain. We would have been down 2-0, so the clearance was crucial for the team. Yes, it was my first goal for the national team and I feel proud of it, but the clearance is what makes me even happier when I look back at that day,” he added.

It is also well known that it was an emotional day for Adil, who learned that his father would be taken into surgery just minutes before he left to the ground. “It was a mix of emotions that day. Just before leaving the hotel, I got to know that he will be taken into surgery and it was a difficult time for me. But I kept it all aside once I stepped on to the ground. I usually try to keep away the personal stuff and concentrate on my game,” Adil said, reminiscing that day.

“There was a lot going on in my head and I was lucky to score and concentrate on my game. It was a big stage and I couldn’t control my emotion after scoring the goal. I believe that God was on my side that night, and gave me His blessings to continue the game in a good way,” the 32-year-old added.

The Goa-born defender shares a special bond with FC Goa’s Brandon Fernandes, who took the corner that Adil headed in that night. Speaking about what made the goal possible, he said, “We always discuss these things. We (Brandon and I) share a room and travel together when with the national team and before the match I told him that I have a feeling I might score and asked him to target me with corners and free-kicks. In the game, before that corner, the Bangladeshi players were marking Sunil Chettri on all set-pieces, so I told Brandon to hit the first post as I will attack it and requested Chettri to fall to the far post for a bluff, and it worked perfectly for us!”

Adil, who began his career back in 2008 with Sporting Clube de Goa, has seen the professional game improve a lot over the last decade. “When I started playing, there were no good grounds and there was a lack of good infrastructure, even at the highest level. But since then, a lot has improved. Playing in the afternoon time, it was never easy for players to give their best in the heat. Now that we have started playing in the night, under lights, it has become a lot easier.”

“These things have certainly improved the quality of the Indian players at the highest level. In the first few seasons of the ISL, Indian players were just making up numbers in the squad. But now, we see Indians scoring and assisting, passing, and tackling which has all improved. So, I feel Indian football is moving in the right path and I wish it continues to grow and improve over the coming years,” he added.

Speaking about the footballers that have inspired him, Adil picked England and Manchester United star David Beckham and Indian legend Mahesh Gawli as his idols. “I used to admire Beckham a lot when I was a kid. As I grew up and started playing as a defender, the one player that stood out was Mahesh Gawli at Dempo. He is one of the best defenders I have seen in India. Calm, composed, and talented, he is a great person to speak to as well. I am probably the biggest fan of Mahesh. I met him a couple of months before lockdown and I think he is still fit enough to play. He works on his fitness so much and I look up to him in many aspects,” Adil added.

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