The game against Real Kashmir was a physical and tactical battle between two very different playing styles. Sudeva rose to the occasion and even brought a bit of magic.

Sudeva Delhi FC Media

“It is one of my favourite stories from the Bible, bro,” Shaiborlang Kharpan says. He is referencing the tale of David and Goliath. He says this not because Sudeva Delhi FC, the new entrants of the season held IFA Shield winners Real Kashmir to a draw but because his love for the story comes from a simpler lesson. “You have to give all your heart to whatever you do. The rest will follow.”

Kharpan’s screamer in the 62nd minute will perhaps forever — for future records — define the story of this game against Real Kashmir but the mental fortitude it took for him to put that ball in the back of the net is a story in itself.

Coming into halftime, the two teams were level. Chances had been few and far between, but the best of the lot fell to Kharpan, from a blistering move when Lunkim Seigoulun Khongsai released Mahesh Naorem on the left. Naorem’s perfectly placed low cross left Kharpan in five yards from goal with the ball to slot in. Somehow, Mithun Samanta kept it out. Many players would crumble at letting that sort of gilt-edged chance go. 

“Strikers can’t dwell on misses. Sure, sometimes you will only get one chance in a game, and you have a responsibility to put that away, but it’s tough. That’s the job,” the 25-year old says. Having played a majority of the first half, pressed down by physically robust opponents, Kharpan says he was waiting for an opportunity when he would be granted space to receive the ball, look up and try something else.

“I’ll be honest. I have never scored a goal from so far out,” he laughs. “I don’t remember scoring like that even in training. But when I got it I saw the defenders backing off, almost inviting me on. So I had a shot.” It went into the top right of Samanta’s goal to give Sudeva the lead.

Real Kashmir clawed back an equaliser in the 75th minute via a Mason Robertson volley, to ensure the two teams split the points. For the team, though it was so close to a statement victory, and yet so far. Among the squad, the overall feeling of pride — at having held a formidable team for a draw — was tempered by annoyance at not coming home with three points.   

“Again, I’ll go back to that story,” Kharpan says. “Give your heart to whatever you do. The rest will follow.”

Sitting next to him, his roommate, the veteran defender Augustin Fernandes nods. “He tells me every day before the game, that if he starts he will score. Today he started. And he scored. How about that?”

“I always say that,” Kharpan laughs. “I always also tell my defenders that if they keep a clean sheet I’ll score a goal for them. I know I have a glamorous job in the team and it is my job to deliver. My goal may have looked like a solo effort, a wonder strike or whatever. But it was because of the team. We set it up like that, so I got the space to shoot…”