In a year full of crests and hardly any troughs,Chandigarh football player Mohammad Sajid Dhot must have been crushed under the weight of the single trough when India went down fighting to Pakistan 1-2 in the final of the first-ever SAFF Under-16 Championship at Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu,Nepal on Wednesday evening.
Same was the sinking feeling when India had lost to the same opponent in the earlier stages also. So,encouraging words from the coach and friends in the team were really needed at that time. And help came from his team-mates from Chandigarh – Daniel Lalhlimpuia,AZ Lalramzuava,Kamalpreet Singh and Jimmy Singh Maibam – who were also in the playing eleven in the final match.
It really helps when you have someone from the same academy because that person knows you very well. Then,you have someone to confide to when things go wrong, Sajid had said before leaving for Nepal to take part in the event. All these five players had started their journey at the same time and had played for or against in various tournaments at the state level.
Among the five,it was Sajid,13,a towering figure in the heart of the Indian defence,who had caught the eyes of Indian coach,Thomas Joseph,during the Indian camp at Goa. During the tournament,India improved in performance with each match under his captaincy. I was chatting with Thomas few days ago and he was full of praise for Sajid,and his other team mates. It really means a lot that someone from Chandigarh has captained the Indian junior team for the first time and reached the final, said Sajids coach,Surinder Singh of St Stephens Football Academy.
If Sajids improved defending abilities were visible in the championship,then Daniel,a student of Government Model High School,Sector 36,showed he was a man of big moments. His lone goal in the extra time of first-half nearly brought back India into the match. These boys have the talent and heart to go farther in life. The boys did a wonderful job in the championship and are on course for a wonderful future ahead. And it is a moment of great pride to know that five players from Chandigarh played in the final, said an ecstatic Harjinder Singh,who is coach at Chandigarh Football Academy.
The year had started well for all the players. While Sajid and Jimmy,both Class X students at St Stephens School,Sector 45,returned to India after a years training at IMG Academy at Florida,United Sates,Daniel and Lalramzuava,students at GMHS-36,realised their long cherished dreams of playing in the Indian team.
Brimming with confidence after a stellar performance in the SAFF Championship,the Indian team will once again begin their training in full throttle at Goa for the qualifying stages of the Under-16 AFC Championship to be held in Arbil,Iraq in September. The coaches are confident that given the form of the players,India could qualify for the 2012 event.