After all, he was their very own Jobby, the one who won them the Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan on an auspicious day. From demanding the cycle, which they had gifted Jobby for his performances, be returned to spreading hatred on social media, they came at the footballer from all sides.
People who know Jobby will assure you, he was never going to be affected by all this. The 26-year-old may come across as a flamboyant personality, but he is quite different away from the public eye. He is aware of his love-hate relationship with East Bengal fans, but he won’t say more.
In the 2018-19 season, Jobby was the highest scoring Indian in the country, alongside Sunil Chhetri, with nine goals in the I-League. But he was aware that breaking into ATK’s playing XI was not going to be a piece of cake. In Roy Krishna and David Williams, Antonio Lopes Habas had two of the deadliest strikers in the league at his disposal.
On top of that, Jobby himself was suspended from taking part in the first three matches, which meant Habas planned his initial team without him.
“I kind of knew what to expect, you know,” reveals Jobby in an exclusive chat with The Bridge. “I was coming to ATK, two-time champions, Roy, Williams were there, the pressure to perform was there. But in the end, I think I did well.”
Habas has future plans for Jobby (Source: ISL)
The reason the forward thinks so is because he got to play his part in ATK’s title win. “From the outset, our aim was to win the title. We had a strong, balanced team... we were hungry to win and our combination was also pretty good. So obviously, six-seven months later, when we actually achieved it, it felt unreal,” he says.
“You know, playing under Habas, with this team, it was such a learning curve. I played in different positions, down the wings, and that has added to my game,” he adds.
Indeed, Habas wanted to play Jobby as no. 10 initially but when he decided to switch to a three-man defence, Jobby seemed more viable as an advanced winger. The Thiruvananthapuram-born forward was quite up to the task as he managed to score one goal, in a 2-1 defeat against FC Goa, and provide one assist in just 318 minutes of football.
However, Habas definitely has future plans with Jobby, especially with the AFC Cup campaign coming up, and that was reflected in the new two-year contract that was handed out to him by the club recently.
“Yes, I didn't get a lot of chances but I am happy that I was able to score that one goal against Goa. The coach always used to motivate me and told me to be ready when my opportunity came. The last season was a stepping stone, I cannot wait for the next one to begin,” he says.
“I am hoping to get more chances, I need to get more game time. I hope to impress the coach in training and earn the minutes. There will be more games to play this season with the AFC Cup, and it's an important competition for us as a club. So I think I might be able to help the team there. I am very excited for the season to start again.”
Of course, the new season brings with it a fresh new challenge. With ATK merging with 131-year-old club Mohun Bagan and forming ATK Mohun Bagan FC, it is not just the jersey or the logo that is changing. For the players, it is so much more. Imagine the expectations of the fans being multiplied almost 20 times. That is some weight. Jobby, however, doesn’t agree.
“Fans usually love me. At East Bengal, at ATK, they loved me. See, in football, at the end of the day fans will love the player who does well, so that is more motivation for me to do better,” he argues.
“As an Indian footballer, you will dream of playing in three of the biggest football clubs currently, East Bengal, ATK and Mohun Bagan. And, this season, I'll be playing for ATK Mohun Bagan in green and maroon, so that is a dream come true. I feel I am very lucky to get this chance, I want to make it count,” Jobby adds.
"If there ever is a Kolkata derby in the future, and I get to play against East Bengal, I will be one of the luckiest footballers. I really look forward to playing in a Kolkata derby again,” he signs off.
Jobby has scored in Kolkata derbies before, to help East Bengal win. If ATK Mohun Bagan and East Bengal square up anytime in future, who’s to say he won’t be on the scoresheet again, this time to help beat East Bengal. But only time will tell if he can really make it count in Green and Maroon.