It was a dream come true for some players of the India U-16 football team when they interacted with their heroes of the senior national team during their training session for the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifying match against Myanmar.
The Indian U-16 football team had been the toast of the nation, qualifying to the AFC U-16 Final Malaysia 2017 earlier in September where they held defending champions Iraq in their final match to qualify. Even as the contingent were granted leave to go back to their respective hometowns after staying at the AIFF Academy in Goa for over a year, Rohit Danu, Ravi Rana Bahadur, Gurkirat Singh and Ricky John Shabong preferred to stay back, all to watch the Indian senior team take on Myanmar in Goa on November 14.
"Its holiday time and everyone has gone back home. But, I couldn't let this opportunity go out of my hand. So I preferred to stay back," Rohit Danu quipped while watching the practice session at the majestic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.
"We have represented India at the U-16 level, but my ultimate dream stays to represent my country at the Senior level. I know I need to work harder for that but right now, I can only feel it watching Sunil Bhaiya and others," Rohit sounded emotional. Following the practice session, the gesture from the senior boys floored the teenagers. Right from Stephen Constantine to Sunil Chhetri to Sandesh Jhingan to Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Amrinder Singh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Pritam Kotal, Anas Edathodika amongst others, almost everyone walked up to them to have a chat and even posed for pictures.
"Everyone dreams of donning the National colours but only they (pointing to the Senior Team) have managed to make it. We hope we can emulate them too," goalkeeper Gurkirat Singh stated. Ravi Rana Bahadur, the swift left-winger, stayed mesmerised watching Bikash Jairu and Jackichand Singh from a distance.
"I have seen them unleashing cutting-edge through balls from the wings time and again. Even after a flight journey earlier in the day they still had so much energy left with them and their crosses are so perfect," Ravi's eyes lit up. Ricky John Shabong, the Meghalaya-based defender, expressed that he's looking forward to "learning new skills of controlling the game from the midfield."
"Lyngdoh-bhai is from Meghalaya and I have seen him playing myriad times. I always follow him closely to polish my skills. He stays so calm on the field," Ricky said. Meanwhile, Bibiano Fernandes, coach of Indian U-16 national team, who was busy scouting for next year's AFC U-16 Finals, mentioned that watching the senior team train and play in Goa is an "excellent opportunity."
"It's always good to see the senior team in front of your eyes. It provides the boys as well as the coaching staffs a brilliant opportunity to learn so many things. We're eagerly waiting to see the action on November 14 and on the behalf of the entire U-16 squad, we wish the Senior Team all the very best."