Saturday, July 20, 2024

U-17 Asian Cup: Father’s vision fuels India midfielder Gurnaj Singh’s World Cup hopes

In a country with no support system at the grassroots level, talented kids come up through the ranks by the dint of their hard work, talent and support from their families.

Thus most of the successful sportspersons in the country are living the dream envisioned by their parents or other members of their family.

The same is the case with the India U-17 men’s team’s holding midfielder Gurnaj Singh Grewal, who is here in Thailand preparing for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup.

Hailing from Chandigarh, Gurnaj is one of the lucky youngsters, who have had the backing of their family in their endeavour to become a professional footballer. While many families in India encourage their children to pay more attention to studies rather than to sports, Gurnaj’s parents went the other way.

“My father always wanted to be a footballer, but could never play at the professional level. He’s passed that dream onto me, and I very much intend to fulfil it,” Gurnaj told the-aiff.com.

Apart from being an inspiration, Gurnaj’s father has also played a big role in getting him kick-started in the beautiful game.

“My father was my first coach, so I learned a lot about technique from him before I joined the CFA (Chandigarh Football Academy),” Gurnaj was quoted as saying by the AIFF in a story on its website.

The young holding medio soon showed his mettle and was called up to the India U-17 team last year, going on to play a key role as the team lifted the SAFF U-17 Championship and secured qualification for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup.

“The camps we had in Spain and Germany were an eye-opener for most of us. We had not really seen much of the world before that, but the level of football, coaching, and attention to detail, especially off the pitch, were something completely new to us,” he said.

“We were given detailed classes by the coaches in Spain and Germany about rest and diet, which really helped us understand that aspect of the game.

“Of course, we also got to play against the junior teams of some big clubs like Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, VfB Stuttgart and FC Augsburg. I have seen these teams on TV as a kid but never imagined that I could play against them someday. That really motivated all the players,” said Gurnaj.

“I can say with guarantee that after playing such teams, our players are very confident on the pitch and absolutely focussed outside it. We all want to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.

While he has learnt a lot during the camps and the tours of European cities, Gurnaj is confident of the team doing well in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup set to start in a few days here.

He is also enjoying the atmosphere at the final camp deep in the region of Kao Yai, just beside the third largest National Park in Thailand.

“The atmosphere within this team is really good. Everyone has a positive mindset, and we are all collectively confident that we can make it to the (FIFA U-17) World Cup,” says Gurnaj to the-aiff.com. “Our staff officials all take good care of us and make sure that we are all in a good mindset ahead of the Asian Cup.”

India have been drawn in Group D of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup, where they will face the likes of Vietnam (June 17), Uzbekistan (June 20), and Japan (June 23). The top two teams from each group will make it through to the quarterfinals, and ensuring a seat in the semifinals would also mean qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is set to take place later this year.

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