Robin Singh: On National Team Comeback, Real Kashmir Spell and ‘Unreal’ East Bengal-Mohun Bagan Rivalry

Robin Singh: On National Team Comeback, Real Kashmir Spell and ‘Unreal’ East Bengal-Mohun Bagan Rivalry

The life of a professional footballer – at least during the football season – revolves solely around training hard and giving their all if selected to play for their side on match days.

However, sport as a whole was not immune to the disruption caused to everyday life by the coronavirus pandemic and football in India was no different.

For Indian striker Robin Singh, who still harbours ambitions of representing India again some time in the future, the disruption could not have come at a worse time.

However, the 30-year-old used his time during the lockdown to do his best to stay in shape so that whenever they were called upon to play again, he would be ready.

“I’ve been working hard on a daily basis. When I came home it was mid-season and so I took a couple of days off and treated it as an off-season,” Robin told News18.

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“That being said, the work never stops for me personally. I try to keep maintaining whatever I have done through the season.”

The striker further added that even though he managed to get in a few kickabouts with friends whenever possible, it wasn’t the same as being out on the field with fans cheering them on.

“Obviously with the lockdown we are in the house so I have focused on strength training and figuring out how to work in small spaces be it cardio or strength training. I still miss playing though!

“I’ve been lucky enough to be in a spot that was tentatively an orange or green zone (Goa). I trained with a few friends but it’s not football as we know it!

“We have to maintain distances and all but I was still happy to be kicking a ball. You have to adapt during these times and that’s what I’ve done.”

While there is no doubting Robin’s eye for goal, the 2019-20 season wasn’t as good as it could have been for him.

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He managed just 1 goal in 9 appearances for Hyderabad FC and accepted a loan move to I-League side Real Kashmir in a bid to get more game time.

There remains an innate belief within him, however, that he can still get back into the national scheme of things – especially since head coach Igor Stimac wants a ‘big physical striker’ in the side.

“Hard work and perseverance – that is the way forward. I’m hungry to get back there and I watch the guys train and that makes me hungrier.

“All of that motivates me to train even in the small space to train in my house. With Igor Stimac saying he needs a big physical striker, well… I’m right here!

“I hope I fit the bill and if I don’t for now, I will make sure I do all I can to fit the bill. I want to play for my country again. Not being part of the set-up is a loss but it only pushes me harder.”

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As mentioned before, he was willing to accept a move to the I-League to increase his playing time and get the attention of the powers-that-be in the national team.

Real Kashmir’s fairy-tale rise to the I-League is a well-documented story and Robin was glowing in his praise not just for the club, but the state of Kashmir and the hard work and dedication of everyone involved with the team.

“This notion that Kashmir – be it on the field or off the field – it is a misconception. The city loves football, I saw that when I was a part of it.

“I went there because the little boy inside of me just wants to play and I wasn’t playing enough for Hyderabad FC in the ISL. I jumped at the chance of joining Real Kashmir.

“The entire team – whether the coaches, ball boys or the players themselves – were so hard-working and honest and they would give their life for the team.

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“They made my transition from Hyderabad to Kashmir so easy. Many of us would stay back after training to work on our skills. It is a fairy-tale story that I was happy to be a part of.”

Where Robin plays in the coming season is still unknown – the forward has had offers but is yet to announce his next move.

He did, however, express happiness at the fact that the ISL as a whole is growing well and welcomed the addition of Mohun Bagan – who joined forces with ATK and will now be known as ATK Mohun Bagan – into the fold.

Having been on the other side of the Calcutta derby himself when he represented East Bengal for three seasons, he expressed hope that the rivalry would be resumed in the ISL – something that could well happen, according to recent media reports.

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“East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are two names that go together. Yes, there’s a massive rivalry and we want to see it in the ISL as well.

“Yes, we have the Maharashtra derby and the southern derby. But East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan is unreal. It doesn’t get much bigger than that and I would love to be a part of it again! But that depends on where I go,” he signs off.