VP Suhair's romance with football started during his school days. He was a district level player by the time he attended high school and was a top scorer at the all-India level in his third year with the University team.
His brothers played football and that meant he was always involved football-related conversations right from a very young age. One of his brothers is the head coach of the junior team at Gokulam Kerala, one of several clubs that Suhair has had the chance to play for.
Suhair has been able to show glimpses of his talent several times during his career but it was last season, at Mohun Bagan under Kibu Vicuna, that the striker really came to his own. He scored two goals and started every single I-League match in Bagan's title-winning campaign.
"Last season with Mohun Bagan was very good. I played almost all the games and many tournaments. I used to play No 10 or No 9. Kibu (Vicuna) helped me play in the role of a winger as well. He is very supportive. If there are mistakes, he will let you know how to correct them," Suhair told Goal .
He added, "I got a lot of experience from playing a lot of games last season. It also filled me with confidence. I learnt that in football, you don't have to play in a single role in a team."
Suhair started his career with the SBT (State Bank of Travancore) team and then joined Gokulam Kerala after playing in the Santosh Trophy team for Kerala. Satheevan Balan, who was part of the coaching staff of the Kerala state team when Suhair played for them, and Bino George were instrumental in helping the striker launch his professional career. The former helped him get a job in the University education department at Perinthalmanna through the sports quota, a job he undertook in March earlier this year.
Suhair's football career has alternated between Kerala and Kolkata so far. After representing Kerala in the Santosh Trophy, he joined United SC in the second division. While at the West Bengal club, he scored against East Bengal in the Calcutta Football League (CF) and the next thing he knew, he had offers from both the Kolkata giants. He went on to play for both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.
Suhair said, "Both Kerala and Kolkata support football a lot. But in Kolkata, when you play for East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, it is their mother club. You will feel that in wins and losses. I get comments after every game.
"If you win, the respect you get is massive, like a celebrity. In Kerala, they enjoy football but don't irritate you (when you lose). You only have to watch a Kolkata derby to know about their passion," the striker said when asked about how both sets of supporters are.
With Indian players, especially strikers, struggling for first-team minutes at their respective clubs, Suhair played over 30 matches for the Mariners in all competitions and made a mark under the tutelage of Kibu Vicuna, who has joined Kerala Blasters.
Suhair lauded the effort of Vicuna, his teammates and the coaching staff in clinching the title last season. "Players did well but the staff deserves a lot of credit for reading the opposition well last season. The coach was able to keep the players together. Coach used to say that defeat is part of the job but it is about moving on and focusing on the next game. He was ready to take up responsibility if something went wrong.
"When I couldn't score that many goals, he told me that I was not only in the team for scoring and that he wanted me to work for the group. He used to tell me to not read too much into the comments by fans and focus on the job and not get distracted."
After an impressive, title-winning campaign, it wouldn't be surprising to see Suhair take the next step in his career and play in the Indian Super League (ISL) soon. It will be nothing less than what he deserves.