ANI Photo | India’s Jules Alberto reminisces on 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers

The Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore, considered a hallowed turf for Indian football has witnessed numerous compelling stories and has played host to countless historic celebrations.
One of those carnival moments was on April 8, 2001- another indelible chapter in the storied history of Indian football. On that evening, India scripted a remarkable tale, clinching a sensational 1-0 victory over the United Arab Emirates during the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. The magical moment of the match came in the 71st minute when Jules Alberto Dias struck the all-important goal.
Though time may have dimmed the memory to some extent, the significance of that goal still burns brightly in the minds of Indian fans. Many of them vow to say it was India’s finest day in international football this century.
“It was one of those beautiful memories which I still cherish and I am sure a lot of Indian fans hold it in great regard,” was the first reaction of Jules Alberto when contacted him in London.
“It was an incredibly memorable goal for our team, and it gave a tremendous boost to our confidence, knowing that we could score against UAE. It was not just a momentous occasion for the goal itself; it had a profound impact on the entire team. We were all filled with excitement and newfound confidence, which translated into us playing exceptional football,” Jules said from his London residence.
The UAE, ranked 64th in the world then, 57 places above India, were expected to comfortably win all their group matches. But India winning 1-0 against UAE is something people still talk about.
“Despite being labelled as underdogs against UAE, who were expected to dominate us with five or six goals, we set our sights on scoring that one crucial goal and then ensuring we did not concede, and that is exactly what our coach Sukhwinder Singh told us. Our primary focus was to maintain our lead and keep them from making a comeback. Kudos to our defensive team and coach for their outstanding performance. We played brilliantly, and this victory instilled a remarkable level of confidence in our team,” Jules added.
Do you have any regrets? “Oh yes, I do have some regrets. I would have loved to advance to the next round. The journey was challenging, particularly travelling to Yemen and playing on their turf, which was not easy. In the match before Yemen, we managed a 3-3 draw in an away game. Then came our crucial match against UAE, where Bhaichung (Bhutia) received a red card. If that game had ended in a draw, it would have been beneficial for us, putting us at the top. When we faced Yemen away from home without a key player like Bhaichung, who was one of the best in the country at the time, alongside (IM) Vijayan and other top-notch players, it was challenging,” said Jules.
“Where we missed a significant opportunity was when we played Yemen at home, resulting in a draw. Though we did not lose, I believe that if we had won that game, it would have changed the entire scenario. We would have been one point ahead, a completely different situation from being one point behind.”
“We emphasised the importance of seizing every opportunity on game day, typically about five or six chances per game, regardless of our opponents. We practiced diligently for set-piece situations, fully aware that approximately 70 to 80 per cent of goals occur during these scenarios. We recognised that these moments were golden opportunities, and we prepared by working on various routines like long throw-ins, short throw-ins, and different types of throws,” said the midfielder, who played on the right that evening.
-Remembering the 2001 goal against UAE
When asked about the historic goal he scored, Jules’s eyes lit up with enthusiasm, and a radiant smile graced his face as he began to recount the moment. He said, “What worked in our favour was our proficiency in aerial duels, with a strong team capable of heading the ball effectively. Our strategy for scoring goals involved using a specific routine. When Khalid (Jamil) was about to take a throw, the plan was for Vijayan to flick the ball into the box. Positioned behind him were me and Bhaichung, and Joe Paul (Ancheri) following just behind us and were ready to capitalise on the flick with our headers.”
“Although the execution was not flawless, it still worked to a significant extent. Vijayan managed to flick the ball, and I over ran but it ended up hitting one of their defenders and fell back right in front of me. My sole intention at that moment was to flick the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. I had noticed the goalkeeper closing in on me from the corner of my eye, and it seemed like the only way to find the back of the net. So, I went for it and executed a flick over the goalkeeper. Bhaichung did an excellent job following up and blocking the defender, which allowed us to score the goal. While it was not a perfect execution, it was effective, and it was the primary mode of attack we had practised for,” remembered Jules.
Reflecting on this match, he said, “Our team had a rich football history, and we consistently performed exceptionally well against opponents from across Asia. While India did make progress in football, it was evident that other countries were progressing at a much faster rate. Their development was outpacing India’s growth in the sport. We were proud to be part of the team during the National Camp, and during that time, there was a prevailing discussion about the UAE being coached by a top-class coach from France (Henri Michel). This prompted us to strive to demonstrate that India still belonged among the top football nations.”
“Our team had a strong football legacy, but we recognised the need to work hard to keep up with the rapid progress seen in other countries, all while striving to maintain India’s standing among the elite in international football,” said the former Salgaocar FC footballer.
India will start its FIFA World Cup qualifiers campaign against Kuwait on November 16. India is part of Group A with Afghanistan, Qatar and Kuwait in the second round.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Avatar photo
About TNM NewsDesk


The News Mill is a Guwahati-based digital media with focus on content from across Northeast India and beyond. We can be reached through [email protected]


ICC CWC 2023: Rohit Sharma overtakes De Villiers, registers most ODI sixes in a calendar year

“If bigger countries violate…” Canada PM Justin Trudeau attacks India again