Rahul Bheke says he wants to keep moving forward as a player
Six players made their debut for the Indian Senior National Team under Coach Igor Stimac at the King's Cup 2019, and only one out of them – defender Rahul Bheke – played every minute of the two matches in Thailand.
The versatile defender, who took his Blue Tigers bow at the age of 28, has played for some of the biggest clubs across the country and looking back at the moment in a conversation with www.the-aiff.com, Rahul termed his debut as "extra sweet."
"It was incredible feeling," he said. "All the hard work over these years has finally paid off. I have earned my first India cap after putting in continuous work and performing consistently for years. The path has not been easy by any means and it makes the moment extra special."
'WANT TO KEEP MOVING FORWARD'
After his performance in Thailand, Bheke was a key figure in the Blue Tigers' next assignment as well at the Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019 in Ahmedabad, excelling in the team's memorable clash against Syria.
"It's a completely new set-up in the National Team. It's a great feeling being a part of it. It's different from what we are used to at club level and I just want to keep learning and moving forward,” he stated.
The defender is now part of the preparatory camp currently underway in Goa, as Stimac's men prepare for the first two FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers against Oman at home (September 5 in Guwahati), followed by a challenging away trip to Asian Champions Qatar (September 10, 2019).
However, Bheke referred to India’s chances as "bright.”
“Preparations are on in full swing. We are up for the challenge. We have a bright chance of going to the next round. We have to get a positive result against Oman, and make the most of our home games."
"I am hoping for a big response from the fans in Guwahati. It's a great place to start our campaign and given the passion for football in Assam and the entire North-east, I am confident that many people will come out and support us," he maintained.
MAN FOR THE BIG OCCASIONS
Born in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Rahul began his professional career with Air India in 2011, followed by a stint at Mumbai FC in the Hero I-League, and has since gone on to play in Kolkata, Kerala, Pune and Bengaluru – scoring a number of memorable goals in big games in the process as well.
In his first Kolkata Derby for East Bengal, Bheke scored in a 4-0 win. "Not many players have the honour of scoring in their first Kolkata Derby. It's a huge occasion in Indian Football. I'm glad I could score a goal for the team and make the fans happy," the two-time Calcutta Football League winner said.
With Bengaluru FC, he has won the Hero Super Cup 2018, and ISL 2018-19 titles – finding the back of the net in the final on both occasions and adding to his reputation of being the man for the big occasions.