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India may be the underdogs in the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup but midfield-lynchpin Suresh Singh Wangjam is confident that playing on the home soil would help them do well in the prestigious tournament.
India are drawn with United States of America, Colombia and Ghana in Group A and head coach Luis Norton de Matos has been saying all along that a knock-out spot could be difficult for the home side if not impossible.
Asked about India’s chances in the October 6-28 tournament, Suresh said, “A football team never prepares to lose a match and we are preparing to win. It is our home ground and it is a big advantage.”
“We are preparing well and we have had exposure tours and competitions abroad. So, we want to do our best. Let us see what we can do,” Suresh, who led the side in the AFC U-16 Championships and BRICS Cup in 2016, told PTI.
The 17-year-old Suresh said he was ready for the big event and looking forward to the opening match against USA at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on October 6.
“It is my first World Cup and I don’t know what will happen. But we want the day to come and wear the national jersey in a World Cup,” said the Manipuri, who is one of the most-capped players in the team.
Hailing from Imphal, Suresh represented Manipur in national Under-14 Championships in 2011. He was later called for a trial in Goa by the national selectors who were looking for talented boys for the U-17 World Cup.
“I went for a trial in Goa in 2013 and they (the selectors) selected me to join the national camp at the AIFF Academy in June or July 2014. Since then I have been in the AIFF Academy in Goa,” he said.
Suresh, however, had a tough time during his childhood in convincing his father about his passion for football. He was the only son and he has three sisters.
“My father is a small businessman and my mother is a housewife. When I was young, my father did not support me. He wanted me to be a government officer and he put me in a boarding school. He (his father) was a badminton player and he wanted me to play badminton but I said I will play football. Initially I went with my father to play badminton and I played one tournament also. But my mind was on football and was not in badminton,” he said.
“I still remember when my boot was torn, I told my father to buy new shoes but he will not buy. I will collect money from my grandmother, uncle and other relatives to buy the boots and the football. I have three sisters and they helped me in buying my football kit.”
Suresh said at times he had to lie to his father to escape study and play football in the neighbourhood. “I have a tutor and I have to do home tuition when there was football trial. There was a tournament and the home tutor was coming on the way. I went out of my house and before the teacher reached home I told him we have a ‘puja’ in our house and so there will not be tuition that day.
“I did that because I wanted to play in the tournament. When my father asked me why the teacher did not come home, I said I don’t know he simply went back.”
His parents are, however, happy now that he is playing for the country in the U-17 World Cup. “My father is happy now and my mother also. They became supportive once I got selected into the AIFF Academy and represented India. Today, they proudly tell our relatives and friends that their son is a part of the U-17 World Cup team.”