Sumit Rathi paced,he squatted,sat down,shouted,and then looked on pensively,but whatever he did on his return from Goa,where he was part of the victorious Chandigarh team that won the national finals and qualified for the South-East Asian zone finals of the Manchester United Premier Cup,made an instant impression on Harjinder Singh,his coach at Chandigarh Football Academy,who was sitting at the periphery of the Sector 42 grounds. “Whatever I do,I have the grab Harjinder sir’s attention. I am trying to play better than before,and earn a place in the team,” said Sumit.
Ever since moving from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh to Chandigarh in October last year,Sumit,who plays as a left-back for the team,has left a lasting impression on everyone’s mind,including foreign coaches at Tata Football Academy,with his fast-paced,defense-splitting passes.
His inclusion into the Chandigarh team for the MUPC gave more options to Harjinder to add more variety into the attack.
Sumit played in every match for the Chandigarh team,and despite being a junior player,he played exceedingly well in the tournament. He impressed everyone with his technique and temperament, shared Harjinder.
Sumit was not the lone player from the junior squad to make his debut in a national tournament. He had Sanjeev Stalin and Prabhsukham for company. While Prabhsukham stole the show with his rock-solid performance under the bar and deservedly won the best goalkeeper title,Stalin made the most of the chances that came his way. These junior players have really shown what they are capable of. They have proved their mettle in such a short time,and earned their place in the team purely on merit basis, added Harjinder. Stalin,who belongs to Karnataka,had moved to Chandigarh in August last year,after he came to know about CFA from his father’s friend. Until that time,Stalin just had his friends from the locality and his father,R Stalin,to play football with. In fact,football came as a hereditary gift from his father,who captained the Karnataka Under-15 football team in the State championship.
I really don’t recall the time when I took to football. It seems I have been playing football ever since I was born, chuckled Stalin,11. Sumit,on the other hand,earned his first moment of recognition when he played a vital role to help his team finish runners-up in the Under-12 State championship. Now,the moment had come for both to try their luck outside their respective states and shine a light on their blooming careers.
Manchester United Premier Cup could be the moment that could give a further boost to their dreams. Winning the national finals,that too on our debut,was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for us. Also,we got a chance to meet our childhood idol Bhaichung Bhutia in Goa. He had come there as the chief guest,and it was the greatest moments of our lives when he praised us for our games, Sumit,12,said.
Another great moment beckons in their lives,and another great step shall they take in the coming few days,with their fellow team members from Chandigarh. Playing with the senior team members have definitely boosted our confidence. In the inter-school tournament,to be held in September,we will be up against players from our age group. So,we would have raised our level a notch higher by that time. Also,it is fun learning Punjabi language and enjoying Punjbai delicacies with the CFA mates, said Stalin.
Plenty of problems
Almost ten days are left before Harjinder and Company embark on their most ambitious dream ever,but firstly,they need to find solutions to their problems. The problem is that three Chandigarh players are currently down with chickenpox,Prabhsimran and Vikram among those three players that are hit by the contagious disease.
The training has been hampered because of the absence of these players. They will return in two-three days,but we don’t want to lose time. The players need to put in 100 percent effort during the S-E Asian finals and only then we can think of surviving in the tournament. The standard of the teams participating in the tournament would be very high. So,we have to be at our best, shared Harjinder.
Sandeep Singh,coach of the junior team at CFA,who was also part of the St Stephen’s team that qualified for the S-E Asia finals four years ago,said keeping possession of the ball would be the trumpcard for them. Keeping the ball to yourself and keep maneuvering the midfield is the key,becuase once you loss possession you end up losing time in regaining the possession fof the ball, he said.