Cavin Lobo: From Palolem beach to the Kolkata maidan once again

He is the only active Goan footballer to have spent as many as eight seasons in Kolkata…

Cavin Lobo will have spent over a decade in Kolkata once his his three-year-deal at East Bengal ends after the 2021-22 season.

The 32-year-old, who has been signed by East Bengal for the coming season, is a familiar face in the City of Joy. He has played for East Bengal and ATK during his stint in Kolkata.

In his very first year in Kolkata, Lobo won the Federation Cup (2012). He helped East Bengal win five Calcutta Football League (CFL) titles. He has also won the (ISL) title with ATK (then Atletico de Kolkata) during his first stint at the ISL franchise (in 2014).

“It has been a great journey. I have overcome my injuries over the years and luckily I came back strong. They (East Bengal) have signed good players for this season. Hopefully East Bengal will play in the ISL but even if they play in the I-League it won’t make much of a difference,” Lobo told Goal.

It was not smooth-sailing for Lobo in Kolkata. He had to endure through testing times with the Red and Golds when he suffered a knee patella injury in 2016 that kept him out of action for nearly seven months.

“East Bengal had offered me the captaincy in my sixth year with them. I was offered captaincy if I stayed but I just wanted to play in the ISL,” he explained of his decision to join ATK on a permanent ahead of the fifth edition of the competition.

“It wasn’t about the money,” he added. “Even the (Indian) national team coach that time, Stephen Constantine, was looking at players who played continuously in a competitive environment. So thinking of my chances of playing for India, I joined the ISL. But sadly, I wasn’t getting much game time.”

During his second stint at ATK (in 2018-19), he was sent on loan twice – to Churchill Brothers in January 2019 and then to Punjab FC, the club he last represented and recorded as many as 15 appearances in a season after nearly a decade.

Lobo began his senior professional career at Sporting Clube de Goa in 2007. Hailing from south Goan district of Canacona, Lobo has had to tough it out given that there was no proper training facilities there before getting his first break at Sporting.

“I was playing on Palolem beach as there is no ground here in Canacona. One of my friends (Valento Pinto) was a goalkeeper at SAI (Sports Authority of India) [football hostel] at that time and he told my brother (Terence) about the trials at SAI as my brother also was interested in football.

“The trials were for U-18 boys and I was the only one who was 15. My father (Manuel) took me for trials to Ponda for three days continuously on his bike,” stated the younger of the Lobo brothers.

Terence joined Sesa football academy and the two were reunited at Velsao Pale Sports Club.

Both brothers scored a goal each to shock Dempo SC to a 2-1 defeat on August 19th, 2006 after which Velsao Pale coach Eban Misquita was quoted, “I have no doubt that both Cavin and Terence have great future ahead of them as they simply played to their potential and earned a deserving win for us.”

The next season, the brothers would continue their playing career together at Sporting Clube de Goa after former coach of the club, Peter Valles, suggested their names to the Panjim-based club’s president Peter Vaz. The duo were incidentally among the scorers in the 2-0 win over Velsao Pale in the semi-finals of the 9th Goa Governor’s Cup that Sporting eventually won by beating Dempo 1-0 in the final.

“We used to travel (70 kms. one way) every day from early morning. We (Terence and Cavin) travelled with Luis (Barreto), Felipe (Gomes) and Wilton (Gomes) in their car, five of us together,” said Cavin.

Following Cavin’s third year at Sporting where he wasn’t able to gather enough play time due to injury, he redeemed himself in the 64th Santosh Trophy with four goals before losing to West Bengal in the semi-final, which earned him a call from Armando Colaco to join Dempo.

“Dempo had a powerful squad at that time. So I didn’t get many chances to play other than in the Goa league. (Former Mumbai FC player) Nicholas Rodrigues told (former Mumbai FC coach) Khalid Jamil about me. That time the I-League was the big (top) league. I played almost all games (for Mumbai FC) that season and that is when I got the offer from East Bengal.

“Who will say no to East Bengal, I thought. It’s such a big club. I didn’t even imagine (such a move). I thought I would play (at Mumbai) for one more season and then look for a bigger club. So without thinking much, I agreed to play with them (East Bengal).

“Initially, I was a bit nervous to play in front of such a big crowd, especially at the (Kolkata) derbies (against Mohun Bagan). After gaining confidence by playing in front of the crowds, I really started enjoying myself in Kolkata. I had good offers from many clubs but I decided to stay there,” he revealed.

“Good (Goan) players can play for longer in Kolkata. Like Rowllin Borges was playing continuously and he could have stayed for longer but then he got an offer from ISL (NorthEast United),” Cavin, who also turned out in Kerala Blasters colours in ISL 2015, concluded.

Lobo, now returning to Kolkata, will hope to bring back his best form to his old stomping grounds.

“It’s a great feeling to go back to East Bengal. The people in Kolkata like me and I like them too,” he said.

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