Life has been nothing less than a fairy tale for Chandigarh footballers Mohammad Sajid Dhot and Jimmy Singh Maibam. During the last one year they have lived their dreams: both went to the IMG Academy in Florida,USA,for year-long training,overpowered teams that were physically and technically superior to them to win the under-15 IMG Cup,and have now been drafted into the Indian under-16 team.
However,instead of looking back at their glory,Sajid and Jimmy are looking to the future and contemplating what lies in the store for them. Our journey has just begun. The competition ahead to get into the Indian team would be much tougher and we believe there are still many hurdles to cross before we can sit and say that we have achieved our aim, shared Sajid,13,a student of St Stephens School.
After their subtle yet attention-grabbing performances in the AFC Under-13 and Under-14 football festivals in Iran,both Jimmy and Sajid found themselves on a life-altering road when they were listed among the final 16 from 22 players and selected for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of training at IMG Academy,Florida,as per a joint venture between the Reliance Industries Group and IMG,in partnership with the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
The period of one year was long. There were matters concerning separation from family members (both Jimmy and Sajids parents are farmers),not to mention loss of studies,but with bigger dreams in life,the emotions were kept in the background and prominence given to the instructions from coaches on dos and donts during the training session.
When I landed in America,I was a bit apprehensive because it was going to be a long training period. But my doubts were cleared soon after as I got busy training with the other boys,and later with the matches. The coaches and other players from the US made us feel at home, Jimmy,15,who originally belongs to Manipur and discovered his football potential while playing for his school,told Newsline from Goa,where both he and Mohammad are currently attending the U-16 camp.
Under coach Tom Durkin,a whole new world opened for Sajid and Jimmy who both play as defenders. We learned to give priority to time and how punctuality counts in a match. By focussing on these aspects,my defending skills have improved a lot, said Sajid,who has also been selected to train at the Tata Football Academy (TFA) in Jharkhand.
The under-15 boys impressed everybody with their raw talent: they won the Under-15 IMG Cup and reached the quarter-finals of the Dallas Cup. Winning a title is always a morale-booster but to do it against players who were physically and technically superior was special, said an ecstatic Jimmy.
As the names of the 30 probables for the Indian under-16 team were announced out of 46 players,it did not come as a surprise to Surinder Singh,their coach at St Stephens Football Academy,to find their names on the list.
They have really worked hard on their game and their performances have improved a lot in the last two-three years. Also,players from Chandigarh have found a new confidence and plenty of them are already in the Indian senior,Under-19 and Under-16 teams. Moreover,these two players are blessed with good height and that has always worked as an advantage for them, shared Surinder,whose famous wards include goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Johny Chand.
With the coming SAARC Football Tournament to be held in Nepal in August,the dreams of Sajid and Jimmy are set to soar higher.