The midfielder lambasted former FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic and blamed for bringing his career to an early end…
Jewel Raja Shaikh tasted success at a tender age of 18. He started his senior career with Dempo in 2008 and had won the I-League in just his second season in professional football.
Shaikh’s impressive performances for the Goan outfit had earned him a call into the India U-23 national team while he was still a teenager and made his senior national team debut at the age of 21.
Unfortunately, his high-flying career came to a tragic end at the age of 27. His last season at the top tier of Indian football was in the 2017-18 season when he played for FC Pune City.
He had a rough start to his campaign at Pune City as he had picked up an injury right before their season opener. He had even started the match but had to leave the pitch within the first 10 minutes of the game.
Shaikh explained that it was a minor groin injury and he had taken only 20 days to get back into fitness. However, he alleges that coach Ranko Popovic did not give him enough chances to make a comeback.
“I had picked up a groin injury in the very first match of the season against Delhi Dynamos but it wasn’t serious. The injury happened during warm-up. I came back after 20 days and had even played a match against FC Goa.
“The coach had problems with me after I got injured. He had asked me to continue with upper body exercises after the injury but the team doctor advised me to take rest for the next couple of days. I decided to follow the doctor’s advice and took complete rest. The coach came to know that I did not follow his instructions and that I guess hurt his ego. He told me that I was not a disciplined person and hence, he never gave me a proper chance,” alleged the midfielder.
Shaikh continued, “After coming back from the injury, I did very well in the training sessions but he completely ignored me. In the Super Cup, he played all the young players but once against ignored me.”
The former India international cited examples of his former coaches Zico and Antonio Habas at FC Goa and ATK respectively and suggested that he had similar injury issues at those clubs but the coaches never sidelined him from the squad.
“Even in the first season at FC Goa I had picked up a similar injury and was out for 10-15 days. Zico was the coach at that time but even he never asked me to do anything that the doctor did not advice. When I came back from the injury Zico called me back into the starting lineup. The same thing happened at ATK. I missed quite a few matches due to injury but once I was fit, then coach Antonio Habas had called me back into the team,” said the midfielder.
Amongst his regrets, Shaikh rues selecting Pune’s offer over Mohun Bagan in 2017-18 and suggested that his career would have gone in a different direction if he had joined his hometown club.
“I regret not joining Mohun Bagan in 2017. They had offered me as then coach Sanjay Sen had wanted me at the club. But I decided to go to Pune. I regret it. Actually the reason I went to Pune City is coach Habas. When Pune approached me, he was still in charge and had recommended my name. Habas was also present during the ISL 2017 draft. But after I signed their contract I came to know that he had left due to some problem and Popovic joined,” concluded Shaikh.