From rejection to record-breaking, the story of Rahul Bheke, the most featured Indian player in ISL 2
The Hero Indian Super League is surely a new found sensation for Indian Football. Despite there being critics who try to play down the revolutionary league and its impact on Indian football, but when it comes to the Indian players, the league has given them an incentive to pursue the game more thoroughly and with a lot more conviction.
But with an aim to make the league popular, the teams are obligated to field only a minimum of five Indian players in the starting eleven, meaning only a few Indian players get the chance to be a part of the league.
Bheke makes the final cut after missing out in the ISL Draft
Over 70 players went unsold after the draft for the domestic players concluded and a young full-back Rahul Bheke was among those who missed out in the draft. There were fewer eyebrows raised after he was ignored in the drafts than when he was selected as a late entrant into the Kerala Blasters squad for the ISL, just a few days before the start of the season.
It was believed that Bheke was selected just to make up the numbers, but that belief was quashed after Peter Taylor, the then Kerala Blasters Head Coach drafted him straight into the fray in Kerala Blasters’ opening game against the NorthEast United where Rahul Bheke’s long throw-ins inspired the Blasters to an opening round win.
What happened next for Bheke was historic than just history; as he went on to play ten straight matches for the Blasters becoming the most featured Indian player in the Indian Super League and also the only Indian player to be among the top ten most regular players playing in the ISL.
Rahul Bheke has played 990 minutes of football in the ISL which today makes him the most featured Indian outfield player playing in the Indian Super League’s second coming.
Rahul Bheke revealed in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, how his journey from disappointment to delight was a realisation of a dream which he always nurtured in his mind.
Bheke thrilled to play in the ISL
“As they say when opportunity knocks, open the door & grab it with both hands. With not being able to make it to the drafts to getting a last minute call, it been a dream come true, what I always had at the back of my mind,” exclaimed Bheke as his emotions spurred out in form of rousing sentence which was testimony to the state of his mind as that moment.
As ecstasy of the achievement tried to eke out of his face, Rahul was unpretentious about the feat, still grateful for the chance which sparked his success. “Though I feel ecstatic about it, but I just call myself lucky to get the last minute call & getting the chance to play for Kerala Blasters at a very important & responsible position,” expressed the full-back who chose to stay grounded amidst fans and foes singing his praises.
The 24-four-year old defender has been catching the eyes of the Indian Football faithful since last season when he draped the yellow of Mumbai FC in the I-League and made a name for himself for ‘Petr Cech-esque’ headgear and more predominantly for his darting long throws which haunted defenders across the country.
Bheke revealed that those long-throws have been a part of his system for some time and it was during his Air India days that he was inspired to inculcate that into his game. “I have been taking long throws since my school days. But it was when I was playing for Air India, that I developed the skill after being impressed by Uttam Singh who used to take those long throws.
“Since then I have worked on the skill and it’s a great addition to my game. With it I can contribute in attack as well as the long throws have created plenty of scoring opportunities,” Bheke opined as he disclosed the roots of one his most deadly weapons today.