The journey has come to an end. India has ended their campaign in their first ever FIFA U-17 world cup. The U-17 boys although did not manage to win a single match in the group stage, but they did win the hearts of a billion Indians. India went down 4-0 in their final game against two times champion Ghana. But the boys in blue did play well. From the goalkeeper to the attacking forwards, India displayed immense capacity and talent in their debut cup.
During the first match against the USA giants, it was visible that it won’t be easy to beat the Indian talent. Among the shinning teenagers was Komal Thatal, the boy from Sikkim who was seen cutting pass US defenders with ease and was a part of India’s two major opportunities of the game. So much so that after a point the entire stadium was shouting his name each time India gained possession. “Komal ko ball do..Komal ko ball do” was the chants from the spectators in the stadium. But sadly, the boy, who is being scouted by Manchester United was not seen after the first game.
When asked why the emerging football sensation was kept in the sidelines for the next two games, head coach Luis Norton de Matos said, ““You want to talk about individual players but for me, the team is collective. If you think Komal was the perfect player to win duels against physically strong teams like Colombia and Ghana, then you are a very good coach!”
But the struggle and hard work in the cup was not restricted to Komal. The Indian colts played good football and a lot of young talents grabbed attention. From the brilliance of Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh to India’s only goal scorer Jeakson Singh, here’s a look at some of India’s finest football young stars.
Dheeraj Singh, Goalkeeper
Hailing from the state of Manipur, Dheeraj has been Mantos’s first choice as a goalkeeper. The 17-year-old has displayed immense talent in the U-16 AFC Championships last year grabbing the AIFF’s eyeball. He was effective with some brilliant saves especially when it came to long balls. The USA did try to test him with long rangers, but he was up for the task every single time.
Sanjeev Stalin, Defender
First noticed during an U-13 tournament in Bengaluru, the boy from Karnataka has come a long way. Known as India’s dead-ball specialist, Stalin proved why he has been a constant at the national camp. When it came to one-on-one or when India needed solid defense during the match against Colombia, Stalin definitely parked the bus in the Indian box.
Amarjit Singh, Midfielder
The story of Amarjit Singh and his journey to the U-17 can definitely be the next Bollywood biopic. Like many of his teammates, Amarjit hails from the city of Manipur where his mother works as a vegetable seller and his father a retired police constable. Not only is he the team’s backbone when it comes to playmaking, the U-17 skipper is also the first captain to be elected by a democratic vote by the 21 member squad. He was responsible for some brilliant playmaking during the match against Colombia and Ghana, though the efforts did not yield the desired result at the end.
Jeakson Singh, Midfielder
Six feet tall and the ability to jump higher than most U-17 players, Jeakson Singh is the proud record holder of India’s sole goal in FIFA World Cup event. Coming from the state of Manipur, Jeakson is Amarjit Singh’s cousin brother. Jeakson was rock solid at the midfield passing the ball with perfect accuracy. He will be remembered among his fans for a long time as the hero of India’s first World Cup journey.
Rahim Ali, Striker
Impressive. This is what anyone who sees the young boy from West Bengal for the first time will say. Jokingly known as the politician in the U-17 dressing room, Ali does keep up to his nick name. He is always at the right place, at the right time. Ali was seen troubling the defenders especially during the match against Colombia when the opponent had a tough time marking him.
Like it had been said before, both officially and unofficially, the tournament was not about winning. It was about emerging at the global level, experiencing the exposure of a world cup and learning from playing against some of the best in the world. Although the journey has ended, India definitely takes away some crucial learnings from their matches hoping to come back stronger in the next cup.