Indian U-17 side led by Captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam will take the field against USA in their first group clash of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Among many firsts for India, the national anthem will be played at a FIFA football World Cup. Courtesy of being the hosting nation, India has been given a spot amongst the top young sides of the nation to prove their metal.
The All India Football Federation has left no stone unturned in preparing their young guns for the campaign, the federation has spent over Rs 10 crore to expose the team against world class football with tours covering nations like Germany, UAE and Italy.
Coach Louis Norton de Matos who has formerly worked with Portuguese top club like Benfica and shared space with the likes of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho trusts his boys to pull of big upsets in the tournament. Apart from having the home support these boys are willing to put in all they have got into the biggest tournament of their lives. The boys certainly know that this might come as their first and maybe the last World Cup event of their lives.
In just a few hours India will go head to head with USA in their first encounter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. These are the boys who will be at the helm of India’s football glory as they will be honoured with the badge of becoming the first Indians to play a football World Cup for their country.
Dheeraj Singh: One of the most experienced players in the Indian setup, with 49 international caps for India he will be tipped to guide the goal for the Blue cubs when they take on USA at the JLN Stadium in New Delhi. A badminton lover in his childhood, Dheeraj has come a long way from representing the nation in SAFF U-16 championships in 2013 and in AFC U-16 championship to the biggest experience of his life at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The 17-year old is a big fan of Arsenal goalkeeper Peter Cech and the Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, he will try to essay his idols when he guides the nets for India today.
Aniket Jadhav: Termed as India’s future Goal machine, the Maharashtra boy is Coach Luis Norton de Matos main man. With abilities to don versatile roles upfront, Aniket can play across positions including the central strike. His talent is a secret to none with rival coaches stating him as India’s most dangerous player on pitch. The Kolhapur lad started off as a winger and later was plotted as a striker by Matos who showed trust in his abilities. The striker has represented India in the FC Bayern Youth Cup in 2014 and has since been a regular in the squad. His favourite is the Brazilian ace Neymar.
Komal Thatal: Rumours has it that the boy from Sikkim is on Europa League champions Manchester United’s radar and can be off to England if he manages to impress the scouts. Thatal is one of the most creatively gifted players in the team, be it breaking defence lines with his skills or striking a powerful shot past the goalkeeper, Thatal is India’s biggest hope. India would majorly depend on him to provide some magic upfront. A product of the famous Nimchi football academy, Komal is a huge Real Madrid fan and has the honour of being the only Indian to score against Brazil.
Abhijit Sarkar: Hailing from west Bengal, Abhijit was always into football. He announced himself to the scene with his impressive performance against Italy, when he scored one of the two goals for the India u-17 side. Belonging to a humble background, the attacking midfielder never let anything come between him and football. He was spotted by the selectors while playing in the sub-junior national championship in Bengal. He is a avid supporter of Mohun Bagan football club and idolises Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam: The natural leader of the team, Amarjit will be honoured to be the first ever Indian captain to represent an Indian side in the FIFA World Cup. Known for his calm presence in the midfield he was surprised to find out that he will be leading the country in the U-17 World Cup. An Andres Iniesta fan, Amarjit is a product of the Chandigarh Football Academy where he brushed up his football skills. The captain broke into the scene when he helped his Chandigarh club side reach the Subroto Cup final in 2012. His teammates voted him to be the leader of the pack and Coach Louis Norton de Matos looked nowhere else.
Sanjeev Stalin: A stern presence in the Indian backline, the full-back from Bengaluru is another product of the Chandigarh Football academy. After scoring a brilliant free kick against UAE in AFC U-16 championships in 2016, Sanjeev won accolades from the fans. He was among the top players selected by Coach Louis Norton de Matos for the role of captain. A free- kick and penalties specialist, Sanjeev is also an asset for India in set pieces. The defender rarely halts as he covers a lot of space going forward. A supporter of English Premier League giants Arsenal, Sanjeev finds his inspiration from Argentine legend Diego Maradona.
Anwar Ali: Another vital cog of the Indian defence, Ali has sharpened his ball controlling skills with the help of inputs from his own father who would train him at a local ground every day. The tall defender from Punjab caught coach Matos eye while playing for Minerva FC against the national side. Ali has been described as a decent defender who likes to answer his critiques with his ball possessing abilities on the ground. He is soft spoken but when it comes to disposing of rival forwards, the lad never backs down.
Namit Deshpande: The Mumbai born has got his first bit of skills developed in USA as his family moved to the foreign country as early as when Namit was eight. He moved from Dadar to New Jersey in 2006. Namit has been a regular in the Under-17 side in the freindlies and can be the first NRI to represent India later today against his residential country USA.
Boris Singh Thangjam: The right-back from Manipur is, strong with his tackles and fast with the ball on his feet the Manipur lad is one of the key members of the team. His middle-class family wanted him to pursue engineering as it seemed a safer career option but Boris was always into playing football. Being from Manipur, ball was always at his feet since childhood, his craze just kept growing with time and the Youth Organisation Sports Club (YOSC) product will take charge to make his parents proud. He is likely to not to feature in the game against USA after being handed a red card in the AFC U-16 championship clash against Iran. Boris however is excited for the team and will be on the fray, supporting the boys from the stands.
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Sunny Dhaliwal: The Canada-born has trained with the MLS side Toronto FC and will be a reliable option for coach Matos to guide the nets. He was the latest to join the Under-17 squad after being recognized by the scouts, his exceptional goal-guiding skills and formidable height gives him strong advantage over others. Sunny’s father uploaded a video of his son playing for the MLS side, which caught eye of the AIFF scouts, and he was roped in the squad for the World Cup.
Suresh Wangjam: Another midfielder who can go forward and be handy in shaping goals for the side, Suresh provides strength to the midfield, which coach Matos, will be banking on to steer his side past their superior rivals. A fan of German midfielder Toni Kroos, Suresh’s will be there to provide defensive edge to the side and cut through attacks. He started as a winger before being transformed into a strong holding midfielder.
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Rahim Ali: India’s number 9 Ali can be partnering Jadhav upfront to set the goals for India. Arguably one of the strongest in the team the 6ft tall will be India’s edge in setpieces and will be the most troubling player for opposition defenders. Rahim too like most of his teammates comes from a humble background who followed his elder brother footsteps in football. From Barrackpore, Bengal impressed the AIFF scouts with his phenomenal display at the Bengal junior’s tournament.
Jeakson Singh: Son of vegetable vendors from Manipur, Jeakson learnt his trade at the Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) and later polished it further at the famous Minerva FC. The defensive midfielder was a part of the Minerva FC team which outclassed India u-17 in Goa and his performance earned him a call up in the national team. Jeakson and Indian skipper Amarjit Singh are first cousins who came to Chandigarh together to train at the CFA.
These are those finest talents in the country of billions, who will don the responsibility of representing India in its maiden FIFA World Cup campaign.
Here is India’s schedule of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, 2017
1st Match — India vs USA (October 6)
2nd match — India vs Colombia (October 9)
3rd Match — India vs Ghana (October 12)